Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who was Saskatchewan’s Gordon Snelgrove?

N.B. This paper was presented in January 2015 at the above document exhibition. The documents gathered by Louise Barak have been given to the University of Saskatchewan Archives and she has retired. The speech was given to an audience familiar with the U of S Art and Art History Department and its history, who had looked at the many documents in the exhibition.


Over the course of the past year and a half I have been working on a large digital project which involves newspaper articles from the early twentieth century written on the subject of art in Saskatchewan.  During the research process, I discovered a lot of information on Gordon Snelgrove in the Regina Leader Post and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.  Armed with that and some other material I had inherited and found on the Internet and through genealogical websites, I decided to write an essay on Snelgrove, the first art historian at the University of Saskatchewan.  Early in 2014, I sent a copy of my 10 page draft to Louise Barak, Visual Resources Curator for the Department of Art and Art History, a former colleague of mine and someone I knew was interested in Snelgrove and his slide collection.  To our mutual delight, we discovered that we had both been working towards the goal of finding out who Gordon Snelgrove really was in our different ways.  Since then we have been emailing each other regularly devising the current project.  For years, Louise has been going to archives and finding difficult to obtain information about him which she envisioned as being incorporated into this show.  It was like we were filling in each other’s blanks. The current version of my essay has benefitted immensely from Louise’s efforts and I have noted references in the footnotes with an LB to recognize the many obscure sources of information she found during her research and kindly shared with me. 

In 1996, when I interviewed University of Saskatchewan Professor Emeritus Eli Bornstein for a history of the Department of Art and Art History that I was compiling for internal administrative use, he was kind enough to give me a copy of the eulogy he delivered to the University of Saskatchewan Council shortly after Snelgrove’s death on Feb. 10, 1966. Bornstein was then head of the Department of Art and had known Snelgrove for over 15 years.  Some excerpts follow:

“In this frantic age of “publish or perish”, Dr. Snelgrove was unique. For, undoubtedly his greatest interest was his students and the young Saskatchewan artists whom he encouraged and helped in many ways. He devoted himself to teaching and his greatest accomplishments rest primarily with his students. He travelled to Europe seven times to study the art galleries and famous monuments and inspired in his students some of his own love of beauty. ..Dr. Snelgrove will be remembered by his colleagues and students as a kind and gentle man with a warm and wry humour. He will indeed long be remembered and missed by all who knew him.” [i]

Having worked in the Slide Library, I had long been intrigued by Dr. Snelgrove, but I discovered during the course of my research then that there was very little information on him in the university records, other than his resume and some mentions of activity in annual departmental reports. He left behind no memoirs or fonds in an archive or record of publications to study his art historical persona.  Professor Bornstein’s tribute to Snelgrove animated him as a person and as a presence at the University of Saskatchewan.

Another important observation, related to his teaching, can be found in the 1989 Flat Side of the Landscape catalogue, written to accompany a wide ranging historical survey of the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops. In the catalogue there is a chapter dedicated to the early years of the Murray Point summer art school written by Ann K. Morrison. It isn’t clear where all the information came from, likely through interviews, since there aren’t specific footnotes, but it is worth quoting what Morrison had to say about Snelgrove’s role there, after describing his credentials and the circumstances of his hiring. At this point in the narrative she’s already described Kenderdine’s history and methods:

“Snelgrove adapted well to the art camp situation, and with his wit and intense curiousity about contemporary artistic issues, was able to provide a gentle but subversive foil to Kenderdine’s 19th Century attitudes. By the second year, he had changed Wilson’s prescription for art appreciation to a serious study of western art history.  More importantly, he had added a late afternoon discussion period to deal with controversies connected with contemporary art, particularly the development of Modernism in Europe and the United States. Having travelled to major museums and galleries, and studied in Chicago, New York and London, he was able to challenge many of the aesthetic principles preached by Kenderdine, disrupting the paternalistic academicism that had led to romanticized canvases with their tree-framed prospects , hazy with memory of another time and place.

Using teaching equipment of slides and reproductions as well as books, all donated by the Carnegie Corporation to the University in 1936, Snelgrove widened the frame of reference in his classes. He made room for discussion, questioning the premises of abstraction, Clive Bell’s theory of “significant form” and later such issues as the relationship of the avant-garde to the contemporary Abstract Expressionist work on view in New York in the 1940s. Tracing the art historical developments from early Egyptian civilization through to 20th Century American art, Snelgrove could place Kenderdine’s position as an artist and teacher in context and go beyond into the theoretical writing found in some of the two hundred books included in the Carnegie package.” [ii]

As far as I know, this is still the most analytic piece on Snelgrove’s teaching that has ever been published.  Morrison’s statements about his theoretical approach are borne out by many newspaper articles describing his public art lectures in the 1930s and 1940s and by the nature of his own academic scholarship.  Of course, the Flat Side of the Landscape exhibition and catalogue was dedicated to describing the birth of modernism in Saskatchewan art so it doesn’t tell the full story.

You have to look to Snelgrove’s own opinions for clarity which are laid out fairly plainly in the transcription of the 1941 Kingston Conference of the Arts proceedings. Snelgrove chaired a session at that historic conference and his opening remarks were transcribed. He said that he felt that the teaching of the history of art and art appreciation needed to be greatly expanded in Canada, where scholarship was lagging behind England and the U.S.  He mentioned that art departments and academics in art were still curiosities in Canada, particularly in Western Canada, where he was the only art historian in an art department. His words follow and suggest he tempered his theoretical approach to his particular context:

“We are attempting to do pioneer work out in Saskatchewan and are meeting with very interesting responses. It is important that we should begin out there, of course, in a very modest way and not kill the whole subject by ramming down the throats of the people a lot of very high-sounding art terminology derived from all the books on art…. This study must be handled in an intelligent commonsense manner, and all with a view to a better understanding of the art of today.  I think that should be our first aim.”[iii]

I am going to end this series of quotations describing Dr. Gordon Snelgrove by referring to the words of Jean Swanson (1914-aft 1983), a Star-Phoenix reporter with an M.A. in English and a deep interest in Saskatchewan art.  She knew Snelgrove first hand and described him this way in her book on Robert Hurley, Sky Painter, published in 1972:

“Dr. Gordon Snelgrove lectured on art appreciation and on the history of art. Through the university’s extension services, he traveled extensively throughout the province, giving dozens of lecture demonstrations. This indefatigable traveler was in much demand as a lecturer, and he contributed a great deal in arousing public interest in the visual arts.  His night classes were always filled to capacity, attracting members of the public as well as students, some traveling for a hundred miles and more every week.  As the thirties turned into the forties, a dint was being made in the public’s apathy to art, although there was still a long way to go to the break-through.” [iv]

Swanson also knew Gus Kenderdine, whose name graces the other “on campus” art gallery here.  Much ink has been devoted to Kenderdine, his paintings and biography.  He was a beloved figure in the early history of Saskatchewan art and his legend certainly overshadows any details that are known about Snelgrove’s career because, unlike his colleague, he left behind a tangible archive.  I recently found some reminiscences Swanson made about Kenderdine in a May 9, 1959 Star-Phoenix article shortly after his retrospective exhibition at the Saskatoon Art Centre. They give some insight into his personality and capabilities as a professor.

Clearly, the two men who started the art department were chalk and cheese.  One a man devoted to teaching and academia, one devoted primarily to painting and his love of the outdoors.  One who was an activist in Saskatchewan and Canadian art circles and extremely sensitive to social opinions, another who could care less what others thought about him and his eccentricities.  Snelgrove was circumspect and introverted. Kenderdine was ebullient and extroverted.  Despite their big differences in age, temperament and approaches, they both loved art and had a deep affinity for Saskatchewan.

Apart from several mentions of Snelgrove’s wit, intelligence and his excellence as a public speaker, it’s hard to find any anecdotes that humanize Gordon Snelgrove in the way Swanson humanized Kenderdine. One of the most astonishing sentences I read about him came from a newspaper report on his public speaking debut in Regina in 1934, before he embarked on his European studies.  The writer started her report by saying “The lecturer seemed to be scarcely more than a boy. But his first sentences convinced his audience that he had a thorough grip of his subject.”[v]Of course, Snelgrove was 35 years old then and already had an M.A. in art history and a long history as a teacher. The audience thought his presentation was excellent but that lead statement does indicate that his looks and demeanor didn’t inspire confidence in his abilities.

He clearly loved travelling, as you can see in a newspaper report of a talk he gave on his days in Europe, and had made study trips to New York and two trips to Europe before he was thirty, the second under scholarship from the Saskatchewan government for 14 months, where he was able to study art and art history in Paris and travel in his off time.

He met his lifelong friend and frequent travelling companion Otis Ellery Taylor in Vienna in 1928. There are indications that they had an extensive correspondence, but apart from a couple of postcards none of it survives as neither man left an archive behind.  Otis Taylor is the only friend Snelgrove ever made reference to in recorded public pronouncements, although you can glean the names of other friends from the list of pallbearers at his funeral, mainly professors and teachers.

Taylor, a first graduate of the College of Commerce at the University of Nebraska in 1915, was, on the surface, an unusual match for Snelgrove.  He worked for the Oswald Stoll organization managing theatres in London from 1917 and into the mid 1920s and then seems to have spent the rest of his life studying and travelling.  He was what can only be described as a bon vivant, frequently noted in various social columns as doing the rounds of Palm Springs, New York and Europe or Asia year after year. [vi] In 1931 he married a wealthy widow over 25 years his senior and eventually obtained a PHD in Art History from the University of Chicago in 1939, after making several trips to study Persian monuments. When his wife died in 1946, he was based in New York City, where he was involved for a brief time with The American Institute of Iranian Art & Archaeology and then the American Red Cross during the war.  Domiciled in swank apartment hotels until he died in 1988, he doesn’t seem to have ever done paid work as an art historian.

There is no indication that Taylor had any interest in being an art historian until he met Snelgrove, whose thirst for more knowledge must have appealed to him. Both of them enrolled at the University of Chicago for art history courses in the summer of 1929.[vii] Moose Jaw then had railway connections which could get you directly to Chicago. Snelgrove’s  M.A. was quite an achievement for a Saskatchewanian in those bleak days of the Depression and drought which plagued the province throughout the 1930s. It appears that his winter’s teaching salary supported his 5 summer stays in the great western American city.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that Snelgrove was a very frugal man and undoubtedly, like many others from that generation, he was able to accomplish much with very little in the way of financial resources.

When Snelgrove left Moose Jaw for England to study for his PHD in the summer of 1934, courtesy of Walter Murray’s finagling to get him a Carnegie funded scholarship administered by the National Gallery, he was an anomaly amongst his cohort of a few Canadian Courtauld students.  Most were on their second year of scholarship, having studied at the National Gallery, destined to be art administrators or gallery personnel by taking a B.A. or a one year Diploma of Art.  He was the only one who went for a PHD and one of very few who did not already have acquaintance with the others. He wrote the fourth PhD dissertation submitted to the Courtauld.

By accident, we know something of the troubles he encountered there from a now published series of letters that went between Helen Kemp, one of those students, and her then fiancé and later husband, Northrup Frye in 1934/35. Kemp and Snelgrove became friends, although it is pretty clear from her descriptions of Snelgrove in her letters that she didn’t find him impressive, describing him as timid and unprepossessing with a high pitched voice and a squeaky giggle and she told Northrup  Frye that he was definitely not “great man” material.[viii] Her reflections on Snelgrove are often of a personal nature, wishing he had some backbone or remarking upon how kind he was to her when she was personally distressed.  She makes no mention of speaking with him about art matters but comments in her letters do provide glimpses of his academic difficulties with W.G. Constable, the Courtauld’s director.

Snelgrove confided to Kemp that Constable misunderstood why he was there and wanted him to undertake studies in the Diploma course.  As she rightfully pointed out, that was ludicrous, given Snelgrove’s B.A. and M.A. in Art History. The course was designed for those with no previous background or credentials in art education.  It seems that Snelgrove complained to her before this misunderstanding was resolved, so he must have required some initial bolstering.[ix] He was clearly intimidated by Constable’s standing and authority as a self-taught art expert.

While this problem got worked out, Snelgrove had more difficulties with Constable because his supervisor wouldn’t let him write his dissertation on the Impressionists, mostly because Constable was a specialist in 18th Century English art and really had little sympathy with Impressionism at that time. Kemp implies that Snelgrove buckled to the will of Constable on his dissertation topic and also states that he developed a dislike for the Courtauld director from that moment on.[x]  Undoubtedly, Snelgrove would have been mortified to see these observations by Kemp printed in a book but I mention them to give a contemporary’s impression of his personality and his struggles at graduate school.

While Snelgrove may have been cowed into working on a topic which was not the one he hoped to explore, he may have also realized that his so-called mentor was not up to the challenge and that if he wanted to get a PHD, the prudent course was to appease Constable, who was then Canada’s National Gallery adviser.  He was, after all, beholden to the Canadian establishment for his opportunity. Undoubtedly, it was Constable who suggested he do a dissertation on Jonathan Richardson, an English artist and theorist of the early 18th Century whom few outside of his own rarified circle would have known about. Otherwise, this dissertation subject seems an odd choice for a man who had chosen to study Cubism and Andre L’Hote in his master’s thesis and had wanted to study for a PHD at the Sorbonne.[xi]

Jonathan Richardson is listed in the online Dictionary of Art Historians as one of the first art historians in England, a fine painter of portraits and a theorist of connoisseurship.  Now he does seem a worthy subject for a dissertation, but I must admit that after 35 years of being involved with art history, seven of which were spent working in a very large University slide library, I can’t say that I had ever heard of him before.  The dissertation submitted by Gordon W. Snelgrove in 1936, The Work and Theories of Jonathan Richardson (1655-1746) (745 leaves) for which he received his PHD from the University of London lies undigitized in the library of the Courtauld Institute and I doubt whether very many people have actually ever looked at it or the microfilm of it since it was written.  One recent writer, concerned with Jonathan Richardson, mentioned in a footnote of her book that it contained the most comprehensive modern biography of Richardson that she had read.[xii]  Carol Gibson Wood, writing on Richardson in the 1990s, noted that Snelgrove’s catalogue of drawings was still the most complete one to date.[xiii]

Having recently had the privilege of reading the dissertation[xiv], I am astonished by what the writer put together in such a short time and wonder why it was never published, as it was certainly original scholarship.  Snelgrove was immediately elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London and might have had a distinguished career as a writer and academic in bigger places, had he not had such a modest nature and such a strong connection to Saskatchewan.   I did notice that when Snelgrove was later reported to have given a lecture on 18th Century British art in Saskatchewan, he didn’t dwell on Richardson at all and his student days in London didn’t feature in any travelogue lectures either.

What is not mentioned in any of the descriptions of Snelgrove is his place in Canadian art history and that is what I am particularly interested in.  Who Gordon Snelgrove was, most definitely, is the first Canadian person to hold a PHD in art history and have an academic career in Canada.  He was more than likely the first Canadian to have a PHD in art history – period, but this is much harder to prove.  He was certainly the most academically qualified of all the chairs and heads of university art departments that started to come together in Canada in the late 1920s and through the 1930s and he was the only art historian in Western Canada for many years.[xv]  What he became was an untraditional university scholar, not known for his publications.  This makes him an anomaly amongst his published academic peers like Walter Abell, an American at Acadia University (1928-43) and John Alford (1934-1945), an Englishman at the University of Toronto.  However, scholars should not always be defined by what they publish in print, as individual contexts must be taken into consideration.  That is certainly true for Snelgrove’s career at the University of Saskatchewan.

That he taught art history at the University of Saskatchewan, the fourth university art department to open in Canada and the first one in the West is no secret in Canadian art historiography but his name and his connection to the University of Saskatchewan is pretty much all you get if you look for information about him in published sources on the history of Canadian art.

Snelgrove was highly interested in Canadian art and lectured on it often, even before his experience meeting artists from across Canada at Kingston.  He was usually the authoritative speaker for the many travelling Canadian art exhibits which came through the province in the 1930s and 1940s. He was also a fan of a number of Saskatchewan artists and worked actively to promote them, without insulting those whom he found less sympathetic to his taste.  However, he was in an almost impossible position as a potential analyst of the subject because he was located in Saskatchewan, a place without any publication outlets or public galleries and no money to support them. Furthermore, the circumstances of his employment worked against him having the time to actually do any writing.  Despite his title, he was essentially hired as an extension lecturer, which meant that he not only lectured in winter and spring and summer session every year from 1936 until 1949 in different places but he also had a heavy load of public service lectures.  His position was not normalized to standard professorial duty until 1949. Additionally, most Canadian writers on art were not isolated from Canadian collections and colleagues who would have supported them.

Snelgrove was deeply affected by the historic gathering of artists and academics at Kingston in 1941 and became an ardent proponent of community arts activism.  He joined the Saskatoon branch of the Federation of Canadian Artists and later the Canadian Arts Council, the forerunner of the organization which became the Canada Arts Council in 1957. He was particularly struck by his encounter with Toronto sculptor Frances Loring and became very interested in what was going on in Canadian sculpture.  In the early 1940s Snelgrove gave public lectures on Canadian war memorials.

His interest in Canadian sculpture grew over the years to the point where he began writing a book on it, recognizing the dearth of published reference sources available.  In 1949 he sent three chapters and an outline to the University of Toronto Press in the hope of interesting them in his project.[xvi]  What became of this initial query is unknown as no correspondence sent to him exists after this point.  In fact, little would be known about this book if a prescient Keith Bell had not rescued some of Snelgrove’s still-extant filing cabinet material from certain destruction when he was a new professor in art history at the University of Saskatchewan. He took a briefcase and folders full of loose papers into his basement while the art department was moving from the Old Hangar Building to its current location about 1980. The material stayed there for 34 years until someone needed it for a research project. Thank you, Keith.

It is clear from the existing remnants of this project in the filing cabinet papers that he sent out a lot of letters to Quebec in the spring of 1949, with the reference assistance of Quebec sculptor Louis Archambault, attempting to gather information on French Canadian sculpture which he wanted to include in chapters of his book.  Drafts for the sections he wrote on Walter Allward and Emmanuel Hahn exist in part, as do the copious notes and an outline he made for a chapter on historic French Canadian sculpture.

The remnants of this draft book give a very good idea of the work of these sculptors.  I was also very impressed by his book outlines – one is enclosed with the correspondence he had with George Brown of the U of T press and one was in with the book chapters he wrote. [xvii] They are not dated so it is difficult to tell which one is a revision of the other.  A particularly interesting approach was his decision to classify some of the sculpture by material so he would have had a chapter on totem poles of the west coast followed by a chapter on French Canadian wood carving.  A brief note to himself found in the draft suggests he was going to relate these two areas of wood carving on a social basis.[xviii]  He was also going to have a chapter on contemporary wood carving.  Just try to find a Canadian sculpture study that has ever done that.

According to a departmental report from 1951/52 he was still working on his Canadian sculpture project but what happened to it after that is a mystery. [xix] Did he run out of time owing to his increased teaching load after 1950 or was he discouraged by publishers or a lack of suitable visual images?  Over sixty years later, there is still no comprehensive textbook on the subject of Canadian sculpture so it is very disappointing to think that he didn’t have encouragement to finish this project.  It was and is a badly needed book.

Anyone who had a serious interest in the disciplines of art history or studio art during most of the period when Snelgrove taught at the U of S would have had to leave the province, as Snelgrove did, to be properly educated.  People who took art courses for credit at the University were mainly teachers attempting to develop some specialization. You couldn’t possibly major in art until the 1960s. In 1948 the College of Education, then under the leadership of Francis M. Quance, Snelgrove’s brother in law, initiated a formal specialization in Fine Arts and the art department revised its curriculum to include five art history courses and three studio courses.  For many years before this, there had been two art history courses on the books, each taught in alternate years in two locations.

The increase in credit studio courses was made possible by the hiring of an artist to replace Kenderdine in 1947, Nikola Bjelajac, an M.Sc. graduate in Fine Art from the University of Wisconsin.  Both he and Snelgrove taught in Regina and Saskatoon until the spring of 1949 when the University finally discontinued the mobile teaching unit by hiring separate staff at Regina College.  Hilda Stewart retired from teaching her non-credit courses in the spring of 1948 and it was time for a new generation to teach studio art in Saskatchewan.  In 1950 Snelgrove hired Eli Bornstein as a permanent replacement for Bjelejac and from that time on studio art and art history at the university began to take on a more academic character. [xx]

A combined Canadian and American art history course was included in the calendar offerings in 1948. Teaching such a course would have been quite a research project in itself, especially in terms of finding visual resources to use in the classroom.  Snelgrove may have been collecting imagery and source material for some time as he seems to have had a sabbatical from December 1943 to June 1944. Earlier in 1943, he was in New York in the summer taking a three week course in art history at Columbia University, presumably American art history. Prevented from travelling abroad by the war and its aftermath, Snelgrove did not return to Europe again until his six month sabbatical in 1954 so he may have travelled a lot in Canada during what down time he had in those years. He definitely collected slides of Canadian art in the 1940s. Was this course the earliest credit course in the history of Canadian art advertised in a calendar at a University? This is a bigger research project than I care to take on but I would wager that this course could be a rival for that status.

Although, his list of publications is not long, he did compile one published and another more informal art catalogue during his tenure. He did the initial cataloguing of the University’s art collection in the early 1950s and a more academic one of the Fred Mendel Collection in 1955. A shortened version of the catalogue from the collection accompanied 55-60 paintings that went on a national tour that year. Prior to those works, back in 1938, he had published an article related to his dissertation subject John Richardson in The Connoisseur entitled “An Unknown Drawing of the Bust of Charles I by Bernini”. He also published an article “Paul Kane’s Wanderings,” in Saskatchewan History in volume IV, No. 3, Autumn 1951.

Researchers of historical Saskatchewan art, like me, would be delighted to read a chronicle of local developments written by someone who could have applied an academic perspective to the early art of Saskatchewan from personal experience of it, but Gordon Snelgrove either did not have the time or did not want to alienate any people in the local communities he served.   He did however advocate for the Department of Art at the University and championed local artists and art education, through action and deed.  He adjudicated art exhibitions, took an active role in the Saskatoon Art Association, sent regular reports to Maritime Art, the predecessor of Canadian Art magazine on art activities in Saskatchewan in the early 1940s and provided notes for students writing on “Art in Saskatchewan” for a literary supplement of the University newspaper, The Sheaf, in March, 1942. As a long time head of the department, Snelgrove voiced his opinion on its relationship to the University several times in annual reports, noting that students produced fine creative work in the face of complete indifference on the part of the institution. [xxi]

As Eli Bornstein said, it was service that appears to have been his main contribution as an art historian to Saskatchewan.  This very reticent man spent his entire career informing others about the inspirational power of art in social and economic times which challenged peoples’ belief in the future. During the Depression and subsequent world war, he brought the wider world of beauty to second and third generation Saskatchewanians who may have never even seen anything resembling art in their small towns and villages. His enthusiastic talks, illustrated with slides, reproductions and original works must have opened up unimaginable worlds for many people. Saskatchewan was lucky to have him because it is unlikely that an art historian from somewhere else would have remained in the province long, especially given the unusual conditions of employment in those days.

When modern art seemed to blossom forth unaided in the 1950s and early 1960s from what was then perceived as the ‘cultural backwater’ of Saskatchewan, no one mentioned the important role that Snelgrove played as a proponent and interpreter of modern art in the province for 40 years in high schools and club rooms all over the province, at Emma Lake and in his university courses at Regina and Saskatoon. Saskatchewan may have lacked amenities like galleries, museums and dedicated professional art societies or schools but thousands of young artists and teachers in Saskatchewan were influenced by his lectures and activities.[xxii]

At the time that Snelgrove left the University in the late fall of 1965, ill with the cancer that killed him in February, 1966, the art department was a very different place from what it was when he started.  However,  the University still found it very hard to find a PHD art historian to replace him and indeed that had to wait until 1968 when Dr. Nicholas Gyenes, a European trained Renaissance scholar, was hired as the second faculty art historian at the University of Saskatchewan.

Perhaps Gordon Snelgrove will always remain an enigma.  He was driven enough to take himself out of Saskatchewan and study under often difficult circumstances to achieve his dreams, yet he seems to have adjusted his ambitions to suit the situation he eventually occupied.  Despite all the emphasis that is put on Kenderdine’s earlier presence at the University of Saskatchewan, there never would have been a Department of Art during his lifetime if Dr. Snelgrove, the necessary academic required to create one, had not returned to his home province and dug in to do what was needed.

The University could not have chosen a more fitting way to memorialize this pioneering art history professor than to name its teaching gallery after him.  It is so apt an honour for a man who often had the privilege of lecturing with actual works of art, rather than the easily available simulacra so many of us must resort to in the present era.

Copyright Lisa G. Henderson, January 2015


[i] Eli Bornstein, Typescript of “Eulogy delivered to the University of Saskatchewan Council, 1 Mar 1966.”

[ii] Ann K. Morrison, Beginnings: The Murray Point Summer School of Art 1936-1955,” p. 23-24 in ed. John O’Brian,  The Flat Side of the Landscape: The Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops, Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1989, pp. 21-27.

[iii] Kingston Conference Proceedings reprinted by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, 1991, p.73 (LB)

[iv] Jean Swanson, Sky Painter: The Story of Robert Newton Hurley, Saskatoon:Western Producer Book Service, 1973., p.78

[v] “Saskatchewan Artist gives address on Old Masterpieces,” Regina Leader Post, 3 Feb. 1934

[vi] I have found 3 pages of travel documents for Otis Taylor (b. Nebraska 1893) at and his name pops up in Nebraska, New York and Palm Springs newspapers in the social columns, mainly reporting on his travels. When Snelgrove died, Dr. Otis Taylor was listed in the newspaper as an honorary pallbearer in absentia. See: “Funeral of Gordon Snelgrove,” Saskatoon Star Phoenix 14 Feb. 1966

[vii] “University Art Director gives European travelogue,” Regina Leader Post 10 Mar 1955 gives a short account of Taylor and Snelgrove’s meeting

[viii] Kemp to Frye, Correspondence, p. 391

[ix] Kemp to Frye, Correspondence, p. 343

[x] Kemp to Frye, Correspondence, p. 391

[xi] Letter Snelgrove to Murray, 15 Jan 1932, U of S Archives. Snelgrove had written to Dr. Walter Murray, the University of Saskatchewan’s president, asking him for his personal support towards his application for a Royal Society of Canada Travelling Fellowship ($1,500.00 )Supplied by the Carnegie Foundation) to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. Obviously, he wasn’t successful in his first try.

[xii] Leslie E. Moore, Beautiful Sublime: The Making of ‘Paradise Lost,’1701-1734, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p.210.

[xiii] Carol Gibson-Wood, “Jonathan Richardson as a Draftsman,” Master Drawings, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Autumn 1994), p. 225 (LB)

[xiv] Louise Barak managed to obtain copies of both his Master’s thesis and his dissertation for the University of London which she electronically scanned for personal use and lent to me for reading.

[xv] The only other Canadian with a PHD in art history that I have been able to find from this era was Robert H. Hubbard who became Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery in 1947.  Hubbard, 18 years younger than Snelgrove, got his M.A. at the University of Wisconsin in 1940 and his PHD from there in 1942.  His credentials are outlined in a biographical profile in his fonds at Archives Canada. He specialized in French-Canadian painting and sculpture in his graduate studies, probably making him the first Canadian with a PHD in Canadian art history. He taught at McMaster and the University of Toronto in the 1940s before obtaining his position at the National Gallery. There were a number of prominent scholars of art history in Quebec in the 1930s but I do not think any of them had a PHD in art history. Eleanor Shepherd-Thompson, a Toronto born and educated scholar, who obtained a PHD in art and education in 1933 from Columbia University in N.Y., taught art history in the U.S. but she was never able to obtain a teaching position in Canada according to Lisa Panayotidis, “The Department of Fine Art at the University of Toronto, 1926-1945,” Journal of Canadian Art History Vol. XXV (2004), p. 110.

[xvi] Letter to Dr. George Brown, Editor, University of Toronto Press from Gordon W. Snelgrove, 17 Dec 1948 in 7.4S Snelgrove, Gordon W. Outside Activities/Organizations NGC fonds, National Gallery Archives, Box 326 File 11 (LB)

[xvii] LB labelled KB Donation Folder Folder 2-117 p.1&2

[xviii] Among all the pages of notes on French Canadian sculpture is a single piece of paper with the notation: “Similar to totems – part of everyday life, done in wood, suitable to purpose, much cost, today dead – culture died, carried on slightly in crafts” (LB labelled digital file KB Donation Folder 2-044)

[xix] University of Saskatchewan Archives, Presidential Papers Series IIIB-12/11-B  Annual Reports -Art Department, 1951/52

[xx] Having had to work with artists who were trained in the 19th Century since 1936, Snelgrove must have been delighted to have a say in this hiring. He chose a young North American who was adept in the language of modern sculpture and painting and academically ambitious.

[xxi]University of Saskatchewan Archives, Presidential Papers Series IIIB-12/11-B  Annual Reports -Art Department in a 1953/1954 Annual Report to the President

[xxii] While the brief history of the art department written in the newspaper to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University of Saskatchewan “University Art began in 1927” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix 26 Sep 1959 was hardly an enconium to Snelgrove, it was the last time, that I can find, that anywhere near his due was given to his role at the University.

Indigenous visual culture in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

What I have been trying to address in my posts on early Saskatchewan art is what I and others term visual culture. Art with a capital A is viewed by many as a limiting description, which excludes many artistic practices. This is especially true when it comes to the practices of indigenous people, who themselves have been stereotyped by the term “Indian.” Without a separate category in their languages which is the equivalent of the English word “art,” it seems more appropriate to use the term visual culture to encompass myriad ritual and material artistic traditions practiced in the prairies by various First Nations groups.

The newspapers I looked at covered the early days of settler culture in Saskatchewan but they also contained a surprising amount of material that could be used for a history of First Nations visual culture in Saskatchewan.  Apart from some anthropological and archaeological studies, I am unaware of any art histories of Saskatchewan which go into any detail about the visual culture of indigenous people during this crucial period.  Crucial because the era represents a time when the traditional way of life was a living memory for many but the free performance of it was no longer allowed because of signed treaties, reserve confinement and the hegemony of settler culture.

Of course, the newspapers were written for and directed to a settler culture audience so what you find is what you get. Today, no one would think of writing a history of art in Saskatchewan without including the important contribution to it by living artists of indigenous heritage, many of whom make reference to past injustices and traditional motifs in their art.  In the period before 1950, no one thought of including indigenous artists in mainstream culture — they were separate and their visual culture belonged to the “past.”  It was framed that way for appreciation.

While there is an overriding sentiment in many pre-1950 newspaper articles that Euro-Canadian culture was superior to the indigenous ones, there was clearly an admiration for the visual culture of the plains people prior to the arrival of settlers.  One only has to look at the significant amount of imagery created by Euro-Canadians on the subject to see that.  That is the topic of another post in this blog, one I feel more qualified to speak to, being a descendant of the settler culture and having studied the image of the” Indian” in  settler culture for many years.

However, I am presenting a number of avenues for research in the newspapers that could be followed by students of indigenous art history with the list that follows. I find the prize lists of “Indian handicraft” winners in the annual summer fairs a particularly valuable way to study early 20th century indigenous art because they include names of individual practitioners.  Many of the displays mediated by settler culture tropes do not mention names of individual artists and while they are descriptive of the products of indigenous artists, they don’t specify many of the individual producers. Therefore, these prize lists in the Regina newspapers are a goldmine, even though they only use the fair categories created and judged by settler culture to describe the work.

The early fairs often displayed the farm products produced by people living on reserves or going to “Industrial Schools” and listed the names of winners. So at least as far back as 1890 you can find who grew the best potatoes or made the best aprons and where they lived.  More interesting are the handicraft displays which feature both European-style crafts and indigenous crafts made by First Nations people.  In the 1908 Morning Leader, for example, you can find that Pimotat won the prize for his fire bag at the File Hills fair and that Mrs. J.R. Thomas made the best beaded moccasins and Red Dog won the prize for silk embroidered moccasins.

As well there are frequently commentaries on the gatherings and activities of the groups of indigenous people who often camped at the summer fairs.  For the settlers, these encampments provided an “exhibition” of an old prairie life so different from their own.  Read the accounts of the Indian exhibits at the 1911 Dominion fair in Regina, both the prize list (scroll right to next page) and the account of the presence of the File Hills band on the premises and a rumination on its presence among the other art exhibits. Once you know when the fairs were held, you can look up the lists year after year in Regina or other ones if you can find them. Here are some lists and articles I retrieved:

Morning Leader: Jul 22, 1916, Jul 28, 1921, Jul 27, 1926, Leader Post Jul 30, 1930, Aug 2, 1930, Jul 27, 1937, Aug 2, 1940,

The Saskatoon Phoenix does not contain much reference to the presence of indigenous people at the fairs until the 1930s.  Jul 23, 1936, Jul 28, 1938 are examples.  Saskatoon’s fair had begun in the 19th Century but it was a much smaller scale affair until the 1920s and older settlements in the north like North Battleford and Prince Albert were more likely gathering places for indigenous people at fair time. However, I found this 1941 article which states that indigenous people had been a presence at the Saskatoon fair for 60 years.

Sometimes there are actual reviews of the “Indian exhibits” like in July 30, 1930 Regina Leader Post above. The 1933 World’s Grain Exhibition in Regina had a huge handicraft exhibit and attracted a lot of indigenous groups to the fair grounds.  Read accounts of the Indian village, the prize lists and editorials on the impression that the indigenous component added to this one and only world fair held in Saskatchewan. Aug 1, 1933 See this prize list and editorial page of the same issue, noted in my post on the 1933 World’s Grain Show.

Another particularly useful avenue for study is the miscellaneous accounts of artifacts being found or collected by individuals and institutions. The provenance of where many anonymous articles now in collections came from is a good thing to know.  See: Nov. 21, 1907 Morning Leader for an account of the finding of a large stone near File Hills which had a sun god’s face carved into it.  July 6, 1906 An Interesting Find at Balcarres of a stone pictograph and Aug 16, 1937 RLP another account of a stone idol.

The 1907 story may be related to the stone which was found in Archibald McDonald’s house in Fort Qu’appelle when a Regina reporter came to call in Jul 17,1913 Morning Leader.  Perhaps it was even the stone that Edmond Morris planned to use in the Treaty Memorial at Ft. Qu’Appelle. See my post on Western Art Association

Jan. 7, 1915 tells of the beginning of a collection of Indian artifacts at Saskatchewan’s Provincial Museum, Regina. May 19, 1917  annnouncement that the Smith & Vidal collections will be shown at Regina Fair. Sep 15, 1920 announcement of a donation to Museum.  Mar. 24, 1928 Mary B. Weekes collection (Mary Weekes was a member of the LCW Arts and Letters Committee who actively collected Indian crafts and also wrote about them, Mar 30, 1928)  Aug. 1, 1934 RLP Museum display of early artifacts.

Apr. 16 1934 RLP story in RLP about donations to Provincial Museum. 1935 story in Star Phoenix re: stone implements collected by the University of Saskatchewan shown at the fair. May 15, 1934 RLP story about a furnace used to make arrow heads uncovered by winds of the drought. Apr. 14, 1934 SSP relics uncovered by wind. Jan 6, 1944 SSP collector makes plea for artifact museum.

Then there are the accounts of settler clubs who believed they were encouraging the perpetuation and appreciation of indigenous crafts or helping people to earn money by making them more palatable for a larger audience.  See the posts on the Western Art Association, Saskatoon Arts & Crafts  Society and the  LCW Arts and Letters Committee of Regina who collected older examples of  beadwork for historical purposes.  While religious groups may deserve the bad rap they’ve been given in some contexts,  there is one account of a church woman who seemed to be honestly assisting the people in her district to earn money by perpetuating their traditional crafts.  SSP Dec. 7,1940Nov. 14, 1939 & Nov. 20 same year

There are interesting discussions of indigenous ceremonial activities in the following articles:

Morning Leader Magazine article on Feb 7, 1925 discussing feathers and beads. Lebret pageant 1925  Aug 17, Aug 18 and accompanying photos Aug 11, 13, 14.   Apr 5, 1924 (scroll to next page) account of sun dance. July 27, 1931 SSP revival of rain dance. Jul 26, 1939 and Jul 23, 1943 SSP White man made chief. Aug. 16, 1947 SSP Poundmakers tent returned. Feb 4, 1954 RLP recounts how Poundmaker was an early advocate for women’s rights.  Oct. 31, 1950 SSP Battleford Indians honour chieftain

I also captured some articles on historical events during the early period and opinion pieces which provide a context and suggest ideas about indigenous people in this time.  There will be more on this in my future post on the image of the Indian in Saskatchewan.

Jul 11, 1936 RLP, Piapot Reserve treaty days celebration

May 15, 1926 RLP Indians Progress. Oct. 8, 1928 SSP Indian Day school photos. July 13, 1934 RLP Indians as teachers. Apr. 25, 1935 SSP John Smith Jr. asks for ancient hunting rights

Dec. 24, 1938 SSP Tuberculosis waning. Sep 12, 1934 SSP, Dreaver leads protest Aug. 4, 1938 SSP  Death of Dreaver. Aug. 12, 1938 RLP Indian housing

Dec. 15, 1939 SSP Indian opera singer. Feb. 7, 1940 SSP Plight of Indians in Yorkton, Aug. 12, 1938 SSP History of Metis

Jan. 9, 1946 The Place of the Indian editorial in RLP.  Sept. 4, 1948 SSP Dundurn Indians immigrants.

Feb. 17, 1951 SSP Historic Massacre of Indians. Jan 15, 1919 Alex Brass wins WWI medal.  Oct 5, 1945 RLP Cree woman in CWAC.

Nov 1, 1965 SSP – Profile of Prince Albert Residential School.

Grey Owl, an Englishman inhabiting an ” Indian” identity, got more press than anyone else.  Aug 3, 1937 SSP reports on Grey Owl advocating for Indian rights and assessing the state of indigenous art. He was the subject of quite a number of articles when he died. See Apr 13, 1938 SSP and daily April issues following for discussions of Grey Owl’s identity.  Another posthumous discussion of Grey Owl can be found in Nov 27, 1939 SSP.

And there are many historical accounts of encounters between ethnic groups written from the perspective of Euro-Canadian witnesses and writers. The Riel Rebellion is the most common event of this kind appearing in many reminiscence type articles. If anyone is interested, you can contact me for a list of articles I’ve collected.

Most of the websites you can find on Saskatchewan indigenous art deal with contemporary artists.  Undoubtedly, there were indigenous artists using contemporary European art materials and styles prior to 1950 but they seem to be obscure in the newspapers. The first one I came across was Allen Sapp whose career really belongs to the post 1950 period. See the three websites below for more information on contemporary Saskatchewan indigenous artists.

Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre 

Aboriginal artists in Saskatchewan at Artists in Canada website

Contemporary Aboriginal Artists at Encylopedia of Saskatchewan

For images of historical cultural objects relating to indigenous people at a variety of archival collections in Saskatchewan see – Our Legacy  sponsored by the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists. Otherwise, the sources for historical Saskatchewan indigenous culture can be found in books on Canadian indigenous art.  One of the best discussions I found of this particular period on the plains is in “Tenuous Lines of Descent: Indian Art and Craft of the Reservation Period” by Gerald McMaster, an essay in In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art, Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Ethnology Service, Mercury series Paper 124, 1993. He brings forward the role that the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and the Local Council of Women in Regina played in the popularization of souvenir crafts.


©Lisa G. Henderson

Art at the 1933 World’s Grain Conference and Exhibition in Regina

As far as I know, the World’s Grain Conference and Exhibition was a one off event, never to be held in any country before or since.  The idea for the conference originated in 1927 as a way to celebrate the triumph of Saskatchewan as a major grain growing centre and also to celebrate the 50th anniversary of agriculture in Regina. Originally, it was planned to take place in 1932 but in 1931 it was postponed until the summer of 1933.  The drought and the depression, not envisioned in 1927, were the main culprits.

1931 Cartoon for 1932 Grain show

The World’s Grain Conference and Exhibition was co-sponsored by the City of Regina, the province of Saskatchewan and the federal government of Canada. It took place between July 24 and August 4, 1933 in Regina, combining an academic conference and industrial exhibition with the annual summer fair.







This cartoon was produced when the fair was still scheduled to happen in 1932. There is an editorial in the Regina Leader Post as late as Sep 28, 1931 (scroll up and right) which states that the Grain Show’s future was then still up in the air, even though it had been planned for years and much organizing and spending had taken place. A decision to postpone it until 1933 was made in October.

Some general online sources for information on the exhibition are :

Brief History of Regina brochure online at:

Encyclopaedia of Saskatchewan has an entry

Photographically Illustrated 1933 souvenir booklet at Peel’s Prairie Provinces

I have also found a couple of blog posts which mention specific aspects of the World’s Grain Conference and Exhibition –

The main source for information in Regina’s Leader Post is the special Grain Show supplement of June 30, 1933 in which you can find a number of illustrations of and stories about the exhibition.



My focus in this blog is on the art shown at the World’s Grain Show but I also want to highlight the Grain Show building, illustrated in this full page introduction to the supplement.

Said to be the largest exhibition building of its kind in the world in 1933, the structure was the focus of the displays and was also decorated with interior murals.  It was a rare example of Art Deco architecture in Regina, a city which didn’t build much of anything during the ten year Depression. Because of its size, photographs of it are rare and I haven’t yet seen any photos reproduced in the newspaper of the interior space.


This illustration above, possibly a photograph, gives a better idea of the scale of the building and its Deco elements. A ceremonial entrance to the World Grain Show was also constructed using an echoing design. On Aug. 24, 1931, about the time that the date of the exhibition was in question, it was announced that the building was completed. Construction had begun in February, owing to the mildness of the weather that year, and the building was completely closed in by May. Many of the construction workers were on a relief work program.

Designed by Storey and Van Egmond, a Regina architectural firm, it was the horizontal equivalent in square feet of a New York Deco skyscraper and was framed using steel, although the exterior was clad with wood and stucco, like other one storey buildings.  Its dimensions and cost are mentioned in the Aug. 24 cutline and here below in this first illustration of its design, which appeared in the Leader-Post early in 1931.

1931 Architect drawing of World Grain bldg

1933 WG ceremonial entrance fair


Fortunately, a floor plan published in the newspaper in the special supplement gives some idea of the commodious nature of the interior and what was housed there during the 1933 show. Occasionally, a photo of decorative items on the inside of the building was reproduced in the newspaper.


The Grain Show building was serving as a storage space for the city and various other businesses and housing a curling rink when a gigantic fire occurred in January, 1955, destroying two thirds of the building. Jan. 28, 1955 issue of the Leader Post shows some spectacular photos of the destruction. It was never rebuilt, as the insurance on the building was inadequate and the cost to re-create such a building in the 1950s was prohibitive, estimated to be over $7 million dollars at that point.

The right hand (eastern wing) section of the building in the above illustration remained in use until 2008 when a fire destroyed it, too.  I remember the eastern section, then known as the Caledonian Curling Club in the winter months. You can read more about the 2008 fire online at:  It includes this photo below which shows the scale and colouring of the east wing facade.


I hope somewhere there is a photographic collection of interior shots of this building because it contained murals which must have been destroyed if they were in the building in 1955. Both Augustus Kenderdine, then of Saskatoon, and Fritz Brandtner, then in Winnipeg, were known to have painted murals for the building in 1933, some of which may have survived as I have seen a Brandtner mural in an art exhibition and indications are that the Saskatchewan archives may also have a Kenderdine mural.

One of Kenderdine’s murals was recorded in a photograph reproduced in the Star Phoenix



And Brandtner’s murals were mentioned in a discussion of the Saskatchewan exhibit in the Grain Show building. Jul 5, Jul 13 & Jul 20, 1933 Leader.  The latter articles suggest that Brandtner’s murals formed a backdrop to a diorama display. A specific discussion of Brandtner’s contribution appears on Jul 24, 1933

1933 WGG show diorama

This rather badly reproduced photo of part of the Saskatchewan display may contain a Brandtner mural in the background of the diorama.

Apart from the murals, there were other artistic displays sponsored by the federal government in the Canadian section, like these inlaid grain seed pictures supervised by J.O. Turcotte, the Dominion of Canada’s exhibition supervisor. See an article on the response to these, Jul 28, 1933 LP. Judging from the description, it seems that some of the seed pictures may have been mounted on the ceiling of the Grain Show Building.



1933 Photo of grain decorationThese decorative grain murals were probably sent back to Ottawa after the show.














The National Gallery Show

A major travelling art exhibition was displayed in the Grain Show Building, a very large collection of 150 Canadian paintings from the National Gallery. I believe this display was the most extensive collection of Canadian art to ever be shown in Saskatchewan at one time and received a lot of press coverage: Jul 20, Jul 21, Jul 22, Jul 24, Jul 25,  Jul 26, Jul 26b, Jul 28Jul 31, 1933 editorial  and Jul 22 & Aug 2 Star-Phoenix, Aug 4, 1933 Leader.  Part of the show travelled to the Saskatoon summer fair after being shown in Regina. Norman Mackenzie, the tall man seen to the left of Lord Bessborough below, arranged to have the show assembled for the Grain Exhibition.


Little is mentioned about any local art exhibitions or competitions at the fair except for J.H. Lee-Grayson’s display at the tea room on the Exhibition Grounds. Jul 28, 1933 LP.  The amateur art competition may have been foregone in favor of the massive handicraft exhibition (see below). However, there was a prize competition for local amateur photography Jul 28 and the usual prizes for amateur household industries and crafts.  A show of paintings by Alberta’s Roland Gissing was on display in downtown Regina at Clay’s Art Studio during the fair. Jul 29, 1933

The Handicraft Exhibitions

Apart from the special travelling show of National Gallery paintings, there was a very special display of handicrafts held at the World’s Grain Show.  Much of the Saskatchewan handicraft show was co-ordinated by the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, although special craft displays were arranged by the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society and the Saskatchewan Homemakers’ Clubs.


The W.A.A.’s organizing started early. On Apr.29, 1933 an announcement appeared about what the WAA was interested in obtaining for the exhibition.  On May 5 in SP & May 12, 1933  in Leader Post a request for submissions went out and May 31, 1933 an update on progress appeared.  On Jun 22, 1933  a set of rules for submissions was published and other updates on progress were published Jun 23 and on Jun 27, 1933 Star-Phoenix.  More updates published before the actual exhibition were on Jul 7 LP and Jul 11, 1933 SP. I reproduce here an announcement about the nature of the handicraft exhibit from the Jul 7, 1933 edition of the Regina Daily Post.



1933 Ancient spinning art photo


The Leader ran an editorial on the Handicraft section of the fair on Jul. 27, 1933 and selected articles about the handicraft exhibition are; Jul 24,  Jul 26,  Jul. 27, (There are several articles on craft and china on this page and the next) Jul 28, Jul 29, 1933  SP (The latter is an article that appeared in both Regina and Saskatoon on Alberta wood sculptor, W. H. Hodgson), Aug. 1, Aug.1b, Aug.8, 1933 LP

China displays Jul 24, 1933, LP, Jul 28 & 29, 1933 in the Star Phoenix.

Homemakers’ Clubs – Aug.1, 1933 SP







The Indian Exhibits 

While the indigenous people also showed handicrafts at the World’s Grain Show, their contribution was, as usual, labelled and displayed separately from the settler craft shows.  Their very presence at the Show was an exhibition in itself, as this article (jul 26, 1933) and these editorials from the Leader demonstrate: Jul 22, 1923 & Aug 1, 1933 (please note another opinion piece to the right of this one on the page written by someone with initials M.B.C.). In the planning stages for the exhibition organizers thought that a recreation of the Battle of Batoche using tribal visitors to the fair might be a good attraction.  I’m assuming that someone with a sense of decorum put the kibosh on that silly idea, as this did not transpire. Mar 8, 1933.

Descriptions and prize lists for the craft exhibits can be found in the Leader Post on  Jul 26, 1933, Jul 28, 1933,  Aug 1, 1933,

The City and the Legislature

Although the exhibition was held at the Exhibition Grounds in Regina, the grain conference itself was held in various buildings in downtown Regina and the civic government and citizens went all out in sprucing up the city, anticipating many thousands of visitors coming to Regina. May 2, 1933 & Jun 17, 1933. The extent of civic decoration is described in a Jul 20, 1933 article.

A tent city was set up for visitors to the fair who could not be accommodated in hotels or billets. See these articles from Aug. 1Aug 1, 1933 which gives a real sense of what staying in the tent city was like.



The Legislature then had a Minister of Public Works who was very interested in art, J.F. Bryant, and he arranged for the legislative art collection to be properly displayed and catalogued to welcome visitors to Saskatchewan.  He also commissioned a new mural for the building, which was in place just before the commencement of the World’s Grain Show. Aug.1, 1933 Leader.

There are lots of aspects of this fair covered in the Regina and Saskatoon newspapers and because reporters were there from many outside newspapers, I assume articles about the World’s Grain Conference and Exhibition can be found in other Canadian and American newspapers from July 24 – Aug. 4, 1933. But from my brief perusal of the Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald,  the best news coverage can be found in Saskatchewan.

I am closing this out with a photo I found online of a commemorative plate you could buy at the 1933 fair.  I wish I had one.

1933 decorative plate


©Lisa G. Henderson


Odd art stories of the early days in Saskatchewan newspapers

While researching newspapers I came across stories which don’t really fit into any category I have in this blog but they make for interesting reading.  I’m presenting  them here for your enjoyment.

This story “Stranger than Fiction – The Schemes of a Wily artist frustrated” appeared in the Regina Leader in 1894. Not really a funny story but indicative of the social perception of artists as bohemians, willing to break the rules of society for their passions.

Then there is the 1905 story of Marie Gilroy, the bachelor farmer girl, which again presents an artist as someone outside the norms of society.  It is essentially a funny story but also gives you an idea of how difficult it was to be a woman artist and a woman farmer in a pioneer society.

There were probably many stories of people being duped by artists or art dealers but this one received a bit of press in Sep 24, 1909 Morning Leader.  Sep 18, 1907, Jan. 13, 1908 are earlier articles which explain the circumstances of the later article. I cannot find any information on Charles S. Hatch but it looks like he had a good scam going and the Regina civic leaders were gullible enough. The reporter obviously enjoyed poking fun at the bad judgement of local politicians with the collusion of E.C. Rossie, Regina’s premiere photographer.

Other instances of quite visceral art, or more often than not political, criticism are:

Aug 13, 1920 Morning Leader (scroll right to next page for headline) announced the moving of a painting from the Legislature walls to the basement for dubious reasons.

A similar occurrence was reported Nov 21, 1934 LP. According to what I saw in the newspapers, Mr. Bryant seemed to be the first provincial politician who was reported to have an interest in art.  He had the legislative assembly collection cleaned up and put on view for the 1933 World’s Grain Exhibition and was one of the few politicians to speak about the need for an art gallery.  In 1933 he retrieved two valuable macquette statues from certain destruction. Mar 7, 1934   I believe Louis Phillipe Hébert deposited these pieces with the new Saskatchewan government  when the Quebec sculptor spent a few days visiting at Government House in 1905 (Sep 20 Leader), probably hoping to get future sculptural commissions. The statues can be seen on the Legislative Assembly art collection website.

Most stories about artists confine themselves to what the artist is best known for but in the first half of the twentieth century artists were called upon to do all kinds of work.  I’ve chosen a few of these stories to illustrate their activities.

Early on in his residence in Regina, James Henderson, apart from making oil paintings, illustrated handbooks, decorated scrolls and helped to create window displays (scroll up and to left).

Harriette Keating was probably not the only artist to work on parade floats but this image is the only one I have found which has an attribution to an artist.

Regina Float 1933

Fred Steiger did something similar in World War II when he designed a stage setting for a Saskatoon Victory Loan Campaign and Parade



And Campbell Tinning worked as a painter of backdrops for Regina’s Little Theatre… Oct 29, 1931 LP

Ernie Lindner, a talented illustrator but not known as a caricaturist, was a staunch fan of all things modern. In an illustrated letter to the editor Sep 13, 1947 SP he humorously critiqued the mayor’s idea to have a new city hall built in the neo-Gothic style. I particularly like the “boomtown” Gothic pediments he’s added to the facades of surrounding buildings, so typical of small prairie towns with pretensions in the early days.



Sometimes stories about artists are just interesting.

May 6, 1918 LP – Soldier artist from Regina encounters unimagined difficulties

Jul 5 1921 SP A Saskatoon boy wins recognition in a British Empire art contest

Apr 29 1939 SP Saskatoon born boy wins recognition in the Soviet Union for his sculpture

Jan 22, 1943 SP is about the wartime oddysey of two former Regina art students  & Nov 25, 1944 SP has a Saskatchewan connection

John Harvey Jorskies of Moose Jaw. Oct 10, 1928 Morning Leader.  I wonder whatever happened to him…

Mrs. M. Ewart, Aug 11, 1945 LP

I particularly like this Dec 8, 1937 LP magazine section profile of Superintendant T.V. Sandys Wunsch of the RCMP which mentions his bead working hobby. He showed his beadwork in a Regina craft shows in the early 1940s

Nov 6, 1946 SP it was reported that a Saskatoon artist was hired by the Eaton’s Co. to paint murals on velour for a display. The newspaper praised the display and the Eaton’s employee who commissioned the work but the artist’s name was never mentioned.

Jan 12 1948 SP – Levine Flexhaug, the super fast oil painter of Gull Lake. UPDATE – See small article on Flexhaug in Canadian Art magazine, May 2015.  A curated exhibition of his work toured western galleries beginning in the summer of 2015.  See: Mackenzie Gallery. Who knew?

Nov 1, 1929 SP An editorial appears on the need for a new flag and Mar 12, 1930 SP a pioneer of Saskatoon comes up with an idea for a new design.

Oct 16, 1948 LPFred Lahrman, wildlife painter is profiled

Oct 8, 1949 LP- Possible surrealist sculptor at Eastend, Sask.

Sep 19, 1930 SP Helen Craig ex pat Saskatoon artist

Dec 14, 1935 SP Former Saskatonian Edna MacMillan won a prize for New York Beaux Arts Ball costume design

Nov 2, 1964 Maud Fletcher McIntosh, pioneer of Saskatoon, lifelong painter. Maud was the daughter of Grace Fletcher, a pioneer merchant of the town who had the first protestant church named after her — Grace Methodist Church. Maud attended the Little Stone School House and the University of Saskatchewan.

Mar 14, 1947 LP – We learn that the Moose Jaw fire department has a cartoonist in its midst.

Oct 29, 1924 Morning Leader story about a creative use for Regina mud

Jul 24, 1929 SP Clay statue broken at fair – again no artist’s name mentioned

Aug 3 and Aug 6, 1927 Morning Leader.  Farmer Darnbrough of Laura, Saskatchewan shows his seed pictures at fair. The 1933 World Grain Grower’s exhibition in Regina featured building decorations created in Ottawa using the same technique.


W. V. Magee of Domremy Apr 22, 1925 Morning Leader.  He probably wasn’t the only one making horn and antler furniture .  I have seen examples of it in many places but this is the only article I ran across about it.

1933 Regina World’s Grain exhibition featured photos of two hand-crafted objects which made it on to the front pages of the Leader – farm carving Jul 7, 1933 and model train. Jul 26, 1933. Paintings made by locals never graced the front pages. For more about objects and art displayed at the 1933 exhibition in Regina see my post on the subject.



And then there are the usual stories about undiscovered masterpieces in local collections —

Mar 28, 1917 E.C.Rossie’s mother got a bargain at an auction which she passed on to her son

May 15 & May 17, 1948 LP – Regina resident found to be owner of a possible old master painting

And speculations about recently discovered objects —

Feb 2, 1934 and Apr 17, 1934 SP there appeared reports about a so-called Stone Goddess found on a farm near North Battleford.

Early Saskatchewan Arts and Crafts Organizations

This post is centred on specific arts and crafts organizations in Saskatoon and Regina but I have included mentions of selected other organizations who sponsored arts and crafts shows and education in the years prior to 1950.  While my source is only Saskatoon and Regina newspapers, there was one provincial institution which got coverage in both newspapers, even though most of its work was in rural areas.

The Homemaker’s Institute aka Homemakers’ Clubs began in 1911 and was overseen by the Department of Household Science at the University of Saskatchewan.  Initially the Institutes were concerned with scientific homemaking courses and workshops but I have come across a few of their reports made at annual conventions which show how heavily this organization was involved in handicraft group organization in rural areas in the 1930s.

From the 1920s to 1940s the Homemakers Clubs (known generally in Canada as Women’s Institutes) were often the centre of rural social life and art and craft activities went on in their club rooms.  For example, Bertha Oxner, the Director of Women’s Work at the University of Saskatchewan, organized art exhibits and art education materials that were circulated in rural locations or donated to clubs in the 1930s.

This is a selection of articles which will highlight this aspect of their activities. Jun 20, 1924 SP (this is only a headline, the rest is illegible, but it gives an idea of the interest in arts and crafts at an early stage), Jun 30, 1933 LP, Jun 11, 1937 SSP are two reports from annual Homemakers’ conventions. Nov. 9, 1950 LP is a report on the development of a local club in Melfort. Nov. 9, 1950 SP shows how the Homemakers’ Clubs arts and crafts sections eventually came under the purview of the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

For more information on the Homemakers’ Clubs of Saskatchewan see: Women’s Organizations in Saskatchewan– Report for Culture Youth and Recreation by Dr. A. Leger –Anderson, 31 March 2005 online at’sOrgs , pp. 33-44.


The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society 1923-1946

This society grew out of the Saskatoon LCW Arts Committee.  In fact, when the Arts and Crafts Society was established as such, the LCW Arts Committee ceased existence for some time. The LCW Arts Committee was established in Saskatoon about 1922 and the few shows it held indicated that the direction of interest was the promotion of handicrafts. In order to accomplish their aims the Arts and Crafts Society became a separate, but affiliated body of the LCW in 1924. Organized and run by Vivian Morton, the wife of Arthur S. Morton, historian at the University of Saskatchewan with the honorary assistance of Christina Murray, the wife of University of Saskatchewan’s first president Walter Murray, the focus was not on members of the association making crafts but on concerns raised by the University’s Historical Association. The Historical Association worried about the disappearance of traditional craft items as modernization took place and was attempting to collect items which might not be produced in the future.  Source for this is Cheryl Meszaros, Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945, Queen’s University Master of Arts Thesis (1990)P.42-43

In her thesis, Meszaros quotes the constitution of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Committee, found in the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society papers at the Saskatchewan Archives, Saskatoon, regarding their objectives:

  1. To encourage, retain, revive and develop arts and crafts
  2. To prevent the loss, extinction and deterioration of the same
  3. To aid people skilled in any such crafts by providing a market for their products
  4. To educate the public to the value of arts, industries and crafts and of good handiwork.

The idea was to support and maintain the production of traditional crafts, particularly those made by what were termed New Canadians and indigenous people. I guess the assumption was that the predominantly English culture of Saskatoon was not “new” but no one seems to have referred to anyone as Old Canadians. The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society held most of their functions in the YWCA building in Saskatoon, like many other womens’ clubs.

Saskatoon YWCA in 1912

Meszaros’ thesis highlights the marketing achievements of this finely tuned organization and the assistance they provided to poor farm women during the depression by paying them for their work, but also the problematic around a WASP group of university- educated society ladies dictating patterns and designs to multi-cultural artisans in order to make their work more palatable or saleable to a WASP audience.

Nonetheless, they provided an example of how to run a craft society by providing educational programs for their members and the public.  Western Producer journalist Violet McNaughton was a member of this organization in the 1930s and she and Luta Munday were in charge of obtaining the indigenous peoples’ crafts.  Luta Munday was a bit of a writer and you can see the problematic public attitudes in some of her publications in the newspaper.  She was concerned about maintaining the integrity of indigenous crafts but she also personally displays the prejudices and misunderstandings that this type of arrangement led to. eg. Nov. 17, 1931 report of a speech and Dec. 19, 1933 and Dec. 16, 1935 SP articles written by Munday.

The Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society became quite famous in Canada for its work and was invited to join the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, headquartered in Montreal. The group declined the invitation because they felt they already had a high profile and did not want to lose it by affiliating with the national crafts organization.  Lack of raw materials for workers, war chaos and the aging of the Society members caused the demise of this group after World War II. There is an article on the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society in Saskatchewan History written by Sandra Flood, well known Canadian craft academic and a former resident of Saskatchewan, but I don’t have access to her discussion of this club. There is a full archival record for the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society at the Saskatchewan Archives Board in Saskatoon.

I would add that the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society was the only group in the city who sponsored what could be called solo shows of individual painters, although that was not their purpose.  They provided this honour to Hilda J. Stewart in 1935 and to Augustus Kenderdine in 1936 when both artists were leaving the city.  Hilda Stewart returned to Saskatoon in 1936 to replace Kenderdine at the University of Saskatchewan as art instructor after the latter left for Regina.

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The activities of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society were well-covered by the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in the Women’s pages of the newspaper.  Vivian Morton, often the president of this club, was also active with the Saskatoon Art Association and later the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Apr. 4, 1957  She received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962. May 11, 1962 SSP


Presidents of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society: List compiled from reading newspaper articles.

1924/25-1928/29 Mrs. A.S. Morton1929 Special report on Stoon Arts & Crafts Society

1929/30 Mrs. Roy Todd

1930/31 Mrs. A.S. Morton

1931/32 Mrs. A. S. Morton

1932/33 Mrs. A. S. Morton

1933/34 Mrs. F. Garnet Hopper

1934/35 to 1938/39 Mrs. A.S. Morton

1939/1940 – Mrs. G. A. Bonney???????????????????????????????

1940/41 Mrs. G. A. Bonney

1941/42 Mrs. G.R. Peterson

1942/43 to 1945/46 Mrs. A.S. Morton







Articles containing historical information on the club:  Nov. 25, 1931, May 17, 1935 SP, Jul 20, 1935, Apr. 16, 1940, SP










Chronological list of articles found in the Google News Archive with some additions from old clippings unavailable at the Archive reproduced here:

Nov. 16, 1923 SP, May 31, 1924( scroll right), Jun 13, 1924, Jun 13, 1924, SP – These articles are mostly illegible but the headlines contribute to the story of the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society.  Newspaper issues for 1925 and 1926 are unavailable and a lot are missing in the 1920s.

Jun. 2, 1927 SP, Oct. 22, 1927, Nov. 28 1927 SP, Jan. 24, 1928 SP, May 31, 1928 SP, Oct. 31, 1928, SP, Nov. 28, 1929, Dec. 31, 1929 SP

Jan. 15, 1930 SP, Feb. 6, 1930(see illustration), Feb. 8, 1930 SP, Mar. 24, 1930, Apr. 19, 1930, Apr, 23, 1930, Oct. 21, 1930 SP, Nov. 24, 1930 SP

Mar. 3, 1931 SP, Mar. 17, 1931, Apr. 21, 1931 SP, Nov. 17, 1931, Nov. 30, 1931 SP

Feb. 18, 1932 SP, May 31, 1932 SP, Nov. 22, 1932, Dec. 2, Dec. 5, Dec. 6, 1932( see illustration), Dec. 13, 1932 SP


Jan. 17, 1933, Apr. 25, 1933, May 20, 1933, May 23, 1933,  Oct. 17, 1933, Dec. 12, 1933 SP, Dec. 19, 1933 SP

Jan. 23, 1934 SP, Feb 20, 1934, Mar. 20, 1934, Apr. 17, 1934, May 12, 1934, May 14, 1934 SP, Oct 16, 1934 SP












































Jan. 22, 1935 SP, Feb 13, 1935, Feb. 15(see illustration), Feb. 18, Feb. 19, 1935, Mar. 19, 1935 SP, Apr. 16, 1935 SP, May 4, 1935, May 17, 1935,  Oct. 22, 1935, SP, Nov. 16, 1935, Dec. 6, 1935, Dec. 10, Dec. 14, 1935, Dec. 16, 1935 SP,



Apr. 2, 1936, Apr. 9 & Apr. 18, 1936 SP, May 20, May 23, 1936, Oct. 21, 1936, Dec. 15, 1936 SP

Jan. 19, 1937 SP, Feb. 16, 1937, Mar. 17 & 18, 1937, May 18, 1937, Dec. 10, 1937 SP, Sep. 21, 1937, Oct. 19, 1937,SP


Feb. 23, 1938,  Mar. 30, 1938, Apr. 28, 1938, May 3, 1938 SP, Nov. 1 & Nov. 3, Nov. 23, 1938, Dec.1 & 9, 1938 SP

May 16, 1939, Sep. 19, 1939, Oct. 17, 1939, Nov. 21, 1939 SP, Dec. 4, 1939, Dec. 9, 15 & 21, 1939

Jan. 16, 1940, May 3 & 7, 1940, Dec. 9, 1940. SP See also historical articles noted above.

Feb. 18, 1941, Apr. 22, 1941, Apr. 30, 1941, Nov. 18, 1941, SP

Apr. 21, 1942, SP, Jan. 19, 1943 SP, Apr. 3, 1945, Nov. 27, 1945, Jun 20, 1946 SP


The Saskatoon Craft Guild 1942post 1951.  This is a club comprised of craftspeople who showed their own work. Initially, the club was devoted to making petit point embroideries, taught by instructor Mrs. T. H. Johnson who lived in Saskatoon in the early 1940s. Later the club began meeting at the Saskatoon Technical School and the range of crafts broadened to include pottery and other pursuits.  I found these reports about this club, in addition to the short ones illustrated below :  May 15, 1942 SP, May 22, 1942, May 13, 1943, May 18, 1944, May 11, 1945, May 19, 1945, May 11, 1946, Oct. 2, 1946, May 6, 1948 SP, May 11, 1949, SP,  May 9, 1950 SP is a photo story, May 9, 1951 SP.

List of presidents compiled from reading newspaper articles.

1942 – Mrs. W.G. Brigman                     1945 Mrs. Bouskill president Craft Guild

1943 – Mrs. Roy Ruemper

1944 – Mrs. Charles Blake

1945 – Mrs. W.H. Bouskill

1946 – Mrs. J.G. Wilkinson

1947 – Mrs. Vern Welker

1948 – Mrs. C. Kargut

1949- Mrs. R. Pepper

1950 – Miss Lenore Jantz

1951- Mrs. D.H. Fast







1949 Craft guild display




The Ukrainian Women’s Association of Saskatoon 1934-present


With a very large presence in the prairie provinces by 1920, people of Ukrainian ethnicity began forming music and arts associations early on.  The Saskatoon Ukrainian Women’s Association seems to have come into being in the 1930s, if you judge by the newspaper reports. By 1938 they were already announcing that they were collecting items for a future museum.  The Saskatoon Association was affiliated with the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, who in turn was affiliated with local and national Councils of Women.  Begun as a social club, this group was not an arts organization per se but they seem to have decided that their handicraft committee could represent the arts of their cultural background more fully than the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society whose prime focus was marketing.  I noticed a number of articles on their activities so I have included them in this discussion because their activities led to the formation of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon.

1941 Ukr. Women's Assoc. show & sale

What little material the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society must have collected for the Historical Museum at the University of Saskatchewan was likely destroyed when that museum had a fire in the late 1940s. It is a very good thing that someone else was also doing the collecting.

Mar. 17, 1934 SP, Jul 5 & 6, 1935, Jun 21, 1937, Jul 16, 1937, Dec 15, 1937, Dec  10 & 19, 1938, Dec 9 & 18, 1939, Sep 17, 1940, Dec. 14, 1940, Feb 18, 1941, Dec 22, 1941, Dec. 21, 1942, Mar 13, 1945, I can’t find any announcements of craft displays during most of the war years and after. Mar. 5, 1949 SP.

???????????????????????????????1940 Burianyk Ukrainian Women's Assoc2


The Ukrainian Women’s Association’s museum collection was held by the community in the Mohoyla Institute for many years before a purpose built museum was erected in 1979.  Mrs. Rose Dragan, active since the Association’s early days, was an instrumental figure in pushing the creation of a physical space for the collection forward.  She was a weaver and also wrote books on Ukrainian handicraft. She was honoured for her efforts. Rose Dragan was also a member of the Saskatoon Arts& Crafts Society.

The Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists has produced an exhibit of Ukrainian arts and crafts which can be viewed online.



German Canadian Association 1934

Like the Ukrainian Association, the German Canadian Association was an ethnic social club but in early July, 1934 there was some coverage of an arts and crafts show which they arranged in Saskatoon at Eaton’s Department Store. Jun 29, 1934, Jul 3, 1934, Jul 6, 1934, SP Jul 6, 1934 LP

Saskatoon has a German Canadian social club to this day called the Concordia Club.  Mention is made of this club in this poster for German Canadian day which appeared in the July 4, 1936 edition of the Star-Phoenix. The cutline says that the German Canadian Reunion, as it was called, had been in existence for 7 years, meaning that this club was probably formed in 1929.

1936 German Day poster


The German ethnic group had a difficult time in Saskatchewan from World War I onwards and the activities of their social and cultural organizations may have been deliberately omitted from the news owing to the suspicions and hatreds developed during the two world wars about enemy cultures. People of German extraction were often subjected to internment during the wars if their activities were deemed ‘suspicious.’


In 2009 the original 1957 Concordia Club building burned to the ground and many artifacts and documents from the early days of the association were lost according to pp.44-47 of above magazine article. But a new Concordia Club has since risen from the ashes.



Early Regina craft organizations included the Regina Handicraft Guild, est. 1908.  See my post under The Craftsmen Ltd. and the WAA Fine and Applied Arts committee or Guild, 1930-1945. See the discussion about the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan in a separate post.

Other independent craft organizations in Regina were the following:

Regina Arts & Crafts Society 1937-1950

This society seems to have been an outgrowth of the Saskatchewan Women’s Art Association Fine and Applied Arts Guild, which was formed in the early 1930s. The guild, a committee of the WAA, was primarily interested in crafts and continued to operate alongside, but separately, from the Regina Arts & Crafts Society, although some members belonged to both groups.  I base my assumption on the origin of this group from the fact that many of the new Arts& Crafts executive members were formerly on that WAA committee.  The Regina Arts & Crafts Society was affiliated with the Canadian Handicraft Guild, unlike the Women’s Art Association’s Fine and Applied Arts Guild. (This terminology is confusing but I am basing this distinction on one made in Cheryl Meszaros, Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945, Queen’s University Master of Arts Thesis, 1990, p. 63).  The Society held membership teas in the fall, usually October, had demonstrations, classes and lectures throughout the winter and held a large craft show and sale every spring, usually March or April.  They also helped to host incoming shows, did some exhibiting at the annual fairs and sent work out to shows sponsored by the Canadian Handicraft Guild.

The association, unlike its Saskatoon counterpart, was composed primarily of craftspeople and the range of crafts on display was dictated by their interests.  Shows included everything from needlework and fibre arts, leather tooling, woodcarving and china painting to oil paintings.  The crafts they produced were reflective of their urban WASP membership and did not represent the multiplicity of ethnicities then living in Regina and the surrounding countryside.  Although they made items for sale, they were primarily a club concerned with companionship and learning and exposing the public to the work of contemporary artisans in Regina. The WAA FAAG, on the other hand, initially modelled themselves on the Saskatoon Arts and Craft Society in the sense that they showed the work of a variety of ethnic groups in their early exhibitions, performing educative work by doing so.  However, neither of the Regina groups managed craft workers in the way the Saskatoon organization did because artisans were running these organizations.




Dec. 7 & Dec. 8, 1937 LP, Dec 11, 1937,  Jan 13, 1938 LP, Mar. 10,  28 & 29 & 30,1938 LP, Oct. 1, 1938 LP

Feb 9, 1939 LP, Mar 29 & 30, 1939 LP

Oct 11, 1940 LP, Dec. 14, 1940 LP

Feb. 15, 1941, Apr 2 & 3, 1941 (two articles on each page),

Mar 16, 1942, Apr 10, 1942,  May 9, 1942 LP

Apr 24, 1943 (two articles on opposite pages)

Apr 22, 1944 LP



Apr 24, 1945 , Oct 3 & 6, 1945 LP, Nov. 10, 1945, Dec 15 1945, LP

Jan 12, 1946, Apr 26, 1946, May 16, 1946 LP

Feb 17, 1947 LP, Apr 15 & Apr 25, 1947 LP

Jan 20, 1948, Apr 10, 1948, Apr 23, 1948, May 13, 1948, Oct 2 & Oct 7, 1948 LP

Oct. 1, 1949, Apr 22, 1950 LP I couldn’t find many reports from the late 1940s, although it is clear from the 1950 article that the club was still intact.

Regina Arts & Crafts Society Presidents

1937/38 – Miss E. Don Cathro

1938/39 – Mrs. J. C. Black

1939/40 -Mrs. Stewart Adrain

1940/41 –Mrs. Stewart Adrain

1941/42 – Mrs. Stewart Adrain

1942/43 – Mrs. J.D. Rowand

1943/44 – Mrs. W. G. Currie

1944/45 – Mrs. N.C. Elborne

1945/46 – Mrs. Harold F. Thomson

1946/47 – Mrs. Harold F. Thomson

1947/48 – Mrs. R. B. Van Iderstine

1948/49 – Mrs. R. B. Van Iderstine

1949/50 – Mrs. G.B. Munro


The Regina Handicraft Centre 1940-1945, possibly longer

This was a civically sponsored institution which provided a space for handicrafts to be taught to children.  It received a lot of press in these years but I didn’t notice much afterward.  Sometimes there were shows and sales offered at Handicraft House, which eventually found a home  on Hamilton street after moving around a bit in the earlier years.

Dec. 13, 1940, Nov 4, 1941, Nov 8, 1941, Nov. 24, 1941, Apr. 26, 1943, Apr 30, 1943 (scroll left), Aug 24, 1945

©Lisa G. Henderson

Saskatchewan Art Patrons prior to 1950

This post is devoted to shining a light on a number of articles I found reporting on commissioned/ purchased works of art in the province.  I also want to bring forward the names of people and groups whose support of the visual arts in the province made an impact on individual artists and public collections in Regina and Saskatoon. Three major art collectors in Saskatchewan are dealt with in my previous post Art Collectors in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.

In the absence of dedicated art galleries, government offices, large schools and public libraries often were the recipients of donated works of art,.  These were places of public business and were accessible to the public, although their main purpose was not to display art.  The provincial government and the civic government had a limited mandate and usually a budget to collect art documenting their services. The schools generally did not, with the exception of the University of Saskatchewan and some private schools. Public libraries did not actively collect art but were grateful for donations and by the late 1940s, with the persistent absence of places to display art exhibitions, libraries became a safe and welcoming place for art to be displayed.  The Dunlop Gallery in Regina eventually developed into a separate art gallery from its beginnings in the Public library and the Frances Morrison library  (Saskatoon’s public library)  has had a dedicated space for rotating art exhibitions for many years.  It appears that the Moose Jaw Library also had a gallery space prior to 1950.

Some notes on these collections:

Saskatchewan Legislature Art Collection begun in 1910. See website:  This website doesn’t seem to be active any more although it was in operation in 2014.  There is now a flickr page for some works from the Legislative Art Collection but no artists’ names or image details are featured with the images on the new site.  Fortunately, the photos on the flickr page are bigger than the tiny thumbnails that were featured on the older website so you can actually look at the art without a magnifying glass.  The Legislative building, itself, has a photo gallery, although only one interior shot of the building is included. It does show the mural mentioned in an article below. Here are some reports on items commissioned or collected by the legislature prior to 1950.

Sep. 20, 1905 Montreal sculptor Louis-Phillipe Hebert visit to Regina – he obviously left some macquettes behind, see: follow up Mar. 7, 1933 LP, Oct. 13, 1908, Jul 15, 1910 (scroll right and up). Oct. 15, 1910 (scroll left), Feb. 19, 1914 Morning Leader, May 13, 1916 Morning Leader, Jul 19, 1918 Morning Leader, Aug. 10, 1920 Morning Leader, Apr. 5, 1928 SSP & Apr. 19, 1933, Jan. 28, 1933, Jun. 16, Jun 17, 1933, Apr. 16, 1934, Sep. 5, 1947 RLP, Apr. 1, 1957 SSP

Civic government collections, mostly painted portraits of local dignitaries, purchased by respective cities and towns from at least the first decade of the twentieth century and hung in their public spaces.  Nov. 1 (scroll down column) and Nov. 8, 1913 RLP – note that the second article refers to James Henderson, artist, but he was so new to Regina at that time that the reporter got his name wrong. There is a little bit more about Regina’s early civic collection in my post: Odd Art Stories in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

I would include public libraries as civic collectors, since they were supported by civic governments.

Regina Public Library :  The Regina Library offered display space for artworks purchased by various groups for a future collection.  The library also collected art. Sep. 29, 1908, Oct. 29, 1948, Jan. 4, 1950

Saskatoon Public Library – Like the Regina Public Library, the Saskatoon Public Library hosted craft exhibitions and related initiatives prior to 1950. Feb. 28, 1934,  Dec. 6, 1938, SSP (scroll down).  The Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Club had a display corner in the children’s section of the library for a number of years in the late 1930s and early 1940s before the Saskatoon Art Centre opened.

University of Saskatchewan Art Collection, begun in 1911, still active. Considered to be an educational collection housing examples of Canadian and international art with some samples of early Saskatchewan art. See website:    And  Little is known about the beginnings of this collection but early works were probably bought at the discretion of the first University president, Walter Murray (term of office 1909-1938).  He favoured Saskatchewan paintings by Gus Kenderdine and James Henderson.  The art purchasing committee did not become truly official until long after 1950. Walter Murray and professors Alfred J. Pyke of the Mathematics department and Richard A. Wilson of the English Department were very active in raising the profile of the visual arts and deserve to be noticed as patrons of Saskatchewan art. The University began hosting National Gallery of Canada travelling art exhibitions in the early 1920s.

Some articles related to the acquisitions of this collection are:  Oct. 29, 1914, Morning Leader, Feb. 20, 1926 Morning Leader, Dec. 21, 1939 SSP, Jan. 12, 1940 SSP

Regina College collectionFeb. 4, 1915 &  Mar. 25, 1916, Morning Leader, and  Women’s Club activities noted below. Regina College was a privately-owned institution that received civic support until it, like other affiliated colleges, before and after, came under ownership of the University of Saskatchewan in 1934. It did not become a separate provincial university, the University of Regina, until 1974.  The bequest of Norman Mackenzie’s art collection to the University of Saskatchewan in 1936 was primarily intended to create a showpiece, a school and an art gallery for the city of Regina. Like the U of S, Regina College hosted travelling National Gallery art exhibitions beginning in about 1920.

Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Gallery, begun in 1919 as a memorial to 29 former students killed in WW I. It is still an open collection containing Canadian works of art from the Edwardian period on.  See the published catalogue Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Collection: permanent collection , 1995 with an essay by Donna Volden and online description of the collection at  For its role in the development of Saskatoon art, see my post Assorted Saskatoon art clubs to 1936. The collection was paid for primarily by students who collected money annually to buy paintings.   Alfred J. Pyke was the principal and curator of the art collection initially and then Aldis W. Cameron took over the position and guided the acquisitions after 1923. Cameron lobbied the civic government to provide funds for an art gallery in Saskatoon (May 22, 1928 SSP)and attempted to educate the Saskatoon public about contemporary Canadian art by bringing in National Gallery of Canada travelling art exhibitions to Nutana Collegiate, starting about 1921.

2016 update. Note that there is a fascinating series of letters written mostly by A.W. Cameron to artists and letters received from them regarding the Nutana Collection at SaskHistoryonline, a digitizing project at the University of Saskatchewan.

Regina Women’s club collection – This is a title I invented for artworks collected for institutions by the LCW Arts Committee and other women’s groups from  c.1920 to 1953 which were eventually housed in the Norman McKenzie Gallery (1953) or Dunlop Collection at the Regina Public Library.  Most were collected from 1920 to 1945 and hung in the Library, Regina College and other collegiates in the city until such time as a purpose built art gallery arrived in Regina. It was a public collection without a permanent home and without a name until 1953 when 23 collected paintings were donated to the Norman Mackenzie Gallery collection. or remained in the Public Library collection (it is now known as the Dunlop Art Gallery)

An early example of a report of this collecting activity is Mar. 6, 1924 Morning Leader

The extent of and contribution of specific women’s art clubs is discussed in my posts Regina LCW Arts Committee and Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, as well as in the individual biographies of artists mentioned in this post. My post on the craft organizations in the two major cities of Saskatchewan adds more names, including specifically Christina Murray and Vivian Morton of the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Club, a major patron and sales facilitator for many craftspeople in the central part of the province.

Regina Women’s Educational Club , known after 1936 as University Women’s Club –  Oct. 27, 1920 (scroll to left under Social column) & Nov. 1, 1920 Morning Leader – Women’s Educational Club announces their intention to buy a work of art for the College annually.  Sep. 18, 1919, Feb. 26Mar. 1 & Mar. 5,1920 (scroll to left), Feb. 22, 1923, May 16, 1929, Dec. 2 (scroll down and to left), Dec.4 (scroll left), Dec. 5 (scroll right), Dec. 6, 1929, Apr. 19, 1930,  RLP


Elgar Club –  Feb. 13, 1926, Dec. 1, 1930, LP

In Saskatoon the University Women’s Club often had study sessions on the arts but they don’t appear to have collected art. eg. Jan. 22, 1935 SSP  The Saskatoon Arts& Crafts Club was associated with some collecting for the University of Saskatchewan Museum, particularly crafts.  The Ukrainian Women’s Association in Saskatoon also collected craft items as far back as the 1930s.  Saskatoon is now the home of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, an institution these women founded with their volunteer effort and collections.

Saskatoon and Regina IODE (International Order of Daughters of the Empire) collected art for patriotic and educational purposes.  The IODE was particularly concerned with buying collections of photographic reproductions of British paintings and graphic work for the public schools and was very active during the World War I period with this function.

Nov. 20 & 21, 1916 SP, Jun 22, 1916 SP, Dec. 2, 1919 SP,  Jun 1, 1933 SP

Mar. 20, 1918 Morning Leader, Sep 27, 1919 RLP

Various Churches across the province – The major Catholic churches in Saskatchewan collected art and also commissioned artists to make art in the province. The Cathedral at Gravelbourg and St. Peter’s Church at Kronau were decorated primarily by artist priests in residence but other churches in the province, like the Anglican church at Cannington Manor were decorated by the congregation who either made or imported fittings for it.  There were a succession of artists in Saskatchewan who specialized in church painting. Berthold von Imhoff, for example, who lived near North Battleford, was responsible for painting the decorative program of many Catholic churches in the northern half of the province.  These collections were privately owned by the Church but the churches were open for all the public to see. There is more on this in my post Ecclesiastic Art in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.

I recently found evidence that the Anglican church in Saskatchewan also had an early art collection: Jan. 28, 1933 RLP

The Saskatchewan Arts Board was formed in 1948 and soon started exhibiting and collecting May 15, 1950 RLP. Today, it has a significant collection of art and craft made in Saskatchewan.


Art transactions

While scanning the newspapers prior to 1950, I ran across a number of miscellaneous articles on art transactions, acquisitions and dispositions.  These would be of particular interest to curators and registrars.  A. Perring Taylor, Oct. 11, 1915 Morning Leader, Henderson, Mar. 9, 1917, David Payne, Oct. 22, 1930 LP, Imhoff – Jul 26, 1933 LP, Kenderdine – Jun 1, 1934, LP,  Minton – Jun 4, 1934 SP, Thornton,- Sep. 29, 1934 LP, Kenderdine – May 20, 1936 SP, Kenderdine, May 19, 1938, SP,  Lindner & Steiger, Sep. 24, 1941, SSP, O’Neill –  Sep. 25, 1941 SP, Sheldon- Williams,May 5, 1942 LP, Effie Martin & Ruth Pawson – Aug. 28, 1945 LP, Edith Shane, Jan. 23, 1947, RLP.  Many other reports of art transactions are linked or mentioned in my posts on the biographies of individual artists.

And Private Collectors

Mention of private collectors of art in both cities is often found in the earliest reports of local art exhibitions where collectors showcased what they owned.  In the case of Regina, reports on the RSAALS exhibitions give us information on the names of collectors and what they owned. Another source is the first Regina LCW art exhibition  in 1920 which featured works of art owned by collectors. In Saskatoon, the first city art exhibition in 1915 also featured works of art owned by local collectors and I have also found a Saskatoon Phoenix clipping  in my research files from 1921 about a travelling National Gallery exhibition of Canadian art at Nutana Collegiate. In the report there is a list of  local collectors who exhibited paintings they owned alongside them.  The report on this exhibit also gives an indication of the state of the Memorial Collection at Nutana in 1921 because it enumerated the paintings in the collection on display at that time.

1921 Ex at Nutana


Patrons of the arts

A number of people deserve mention for being benefactors or promoters of art in the province. In Regina, I have selected the following people, based on mention of them in the newspaper and on the Internet. They were what might be described now as power couples:

Francis N. Darke – Frank Darke May 26, 1924 Morning Leader – Opening of Darke Hall Nov. 6, 1928,  Jan.7, 1929  & Jan. 8, 1929 Morning Leader. Annie Darke is profiled in my Club Women artist Biographies and her name can be found as an active participant in reports on many of Regina’s art and craft organizations.

Darke Hall - October 30, 2014 - 3

Darke Hall, Regina

Dr. Hugh & Susan MacLean – Hugh MacLean was a social activist in the fields of Medicine and politics. He has been described as the “godfather of Medicare in Saskatchewan.” He and his wife Susan were also art collectors and donated 11 paintings to the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in 1953. The MacLeans, who had moved from Regina to California in 1938, also offered to donate their substantial house at 2930 Albert Street in Regina to the University of Saskatchewan in 1940, hoping that it could provide space for a much needed art gallery building in the city. Their home was never used for that purpose but I have found a drawing and brief history of the house on the Regina Walking Tours website (p,116, 117).  Articles on Dr. Hugh MacLean:  Jan. 4, 1958 SSP, Jul. 14, 1944, RLP, Sep. 26, 1953, RLP. Susan is profiled in my Club Women artists biographies and her name can be found in articles related to the Women’s Art Association and other cultural organizations. – eg. Dec. 14, 1933 RLP, Feb. 27, 1935 RLP

2930 Albert Street MacLean residence

George and Ethel Barr–  Ethel Barr is profiled in my Club Women artists biographies and her name can be found in posts dealing with the Regina LCW Art Committees and the Regina Art Centre Association. – Oct. 9, 1954, RLP. As I have said elsewhere, her contributions to the Regina art world included chronicling early Regina art and leading a campaign for an art centre in Regina, in addition to maintaining a sustained volunteer career in many arts organizations for over 30 years.  George Barr was active in art affairs as both an artist and a prominent member of the Saskatchewan Art Association . He also was most vocal about raising the provincial status of Regina College.  See the following articles about him: Jun 22, 1955 RLP, Feb. 9, 1960 RLP, Apr. 1, 1960  and a sample of his guest editorials in the Leader Post on the issue that consumed many other Regina community leaders  and educators of his vintage. Feb. 16, 1954, RLP  Feb. 17, 1954, RLP.

Lorne and Evelyn Johnson –  I offer a short biography of Evelyn here and some articles on her activities but the biographies of both she and her husband should be consulted at the Johnson Foundation website, linked below.  – Sept. 27, 1933, Oct. 22, 1948 RLP


Evelyn Madill Vrooman Johnson (Mrs. Lorne) (b. 1 Nov 1883 Ontario – d. 25 May 1977, Regina, Sask.)

Evelyn Madill Vrooman Johnson, wife of Lorne Johnson, m. 1916. Evelyn was the daughter of James L. Vrooman and was born in Vroomanton, Ontario.  A 1912 graduate of the Toronto Conservatory of Expression, Evelyn was a founding member of the Regina LCW Fine and Applied Arts Committee. Although she was not an artist, Evelyn Johnson was often on the executive and was an active participant in the committee’s art shows, hanging many of them.  She and her husband lived in Regina from World War I and had no children.  Both were very active in the arts and culture sector and established the Johnson Foundation in Regina over 50 years ago which is still offering funds to support the arts and culture in Regina. The Johnson Foundation website offers biographies of both of them which highlight their public service. Note how many times her name is mentioned in connection with LCW art exhibits on my post.  Also see online: Pioneers and Prominent People of Saskatchewan for an earlier biography of the two.

Evelyn Johnson photo from ancestry Mr. and Mrs. Lorne Johnson from a photo on

The story of art patronage in Saskatoon is quite different.  There were art patrons and collectors, as in Regina, but none of them apparently had the wherewithall or felt the need  to fund buildings, endowments or public collections until Fred Mendel pledged funds to the city for an art gallery in 1960. I found almost no reports of art acquisitions or art patronage in Saskatoon’s newspapers as opposed to Regina’s newspapers. However, in Saskatoon there were many more reports of the individual achievements of artists and lots of reproduced images of local artwork, something seldom seen in Regina’s Leader Post until after 1950.

You can read the reports associated with the “non-gendered”  art organizations in Saskatoon, like the Saskatoon Art Club and its successor, the Saskatoon Art Association to see the efforts that many artists put forward to create a space for the visual arts in their city and in Saskatchewan. Apart from the few Regina women mentioned above, there weren’t many other visual artists in Regina, who can be noted as patrons or activists in the arts .  Barbara Barber was an exception. She is profiled in my club women’s biographies and in my post on the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, an organization that she spearheaded. She also was the founder of the Regina Beach Art Centre and one of the few Regina artists who made a concerted effort to have works by her fellow artists shown outside the province.  In the sense that she broadened the horizons for Saskatchewan art, she was the equivalent of Ernest Lindner in Saskatoon, although they were very different people doing different things. Lindner strove to raise the standards of art in Saskatchewan by forming artist associations, opening up venues for artists to show their work and by promoting better educational opportunities for Saskatchewan artists. A number of reports on the activities of Barber and Lindner (Saskatoon Art Association and Saskatchewan FCA) can be seen in the posts I have on the organizations they played a major role in.

Interest in the arts in Saskatoon was driven by educators and artists and this is clear when you look at newspaper reports.  In Regina there are many reports of people donating money, effort and time to local institutions, whereas in Saskatoon people primarily donated their time and effort prior to 1950. Regina artists were often passive recipients of the benevolence of women’s art clubs, who made efforts to show all artists’ work to the public, but Saskatoon’s visual artists were more likely to initiate exhibitions and shows themselves. The Saskatoon Art Centre, which opened in 1944, was the result of the combined volunteer efforts of artists and concerned citizens who did not have the assistance of wealthy benefactors.  I would add that the Saskatoon Star Phoenix deserves credit for treating art activities and events as important cultural news, highlighting local activities with photographs and art columns in the 1940s. The newspaper distinguished itself nationally in that way.

The one important provincial institution in Saskatoon was the University of Saskatchewan.  In Regina, the provincial interest was represented by the institution of the Legislature. Both held collections of art in trust for the people of the province. Neither of these entities were civic institutions, although the cities and art cultures they were located in certainly benefited from their existence. The big difference was the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon hosted travelling art exhibitions as part of its educational mandate from the early 1920s.  In Regina, a local college took on part of this role for its community around the same time, assisted by more than one volunteer women’s organization. The Legislature did not generally sponsor art exhibitions but it did provide commissions for artists and actually employed artists like J.H. Lee-Grayson and John Leman on its staff.

There were a number of civic institutions and local businesses who neither collected art nor made art exhibiting their major concern.  However, they were important in the growth of visual arts awareness in the province because they provided exhibition space in their organizations or businesses at a time when there were few other venues to welcome travelling or local shows.

Local art dealers didn’t get much press but they did advertise and deal in art and occasionally hosted local artists, particularly in Saskatoon during the period before 1944 when there were no solo exhibitions sponsored by local organizations.

Saskatoon:  Hazen-Twiss Stationery store, Hudson’s Bay Store and Eaton’s.  Tyries’ Art and Framing Store. YWCA, University of Saskatchewan, Nutana Collegiate, Bessborough & King George Hotel and various empty downtown buildings.

1928 Etching show at Tyrie Studios
















Regina: Willson’s Stationery Store, Glasgow House, Eatons & Simpsons department stores, City Hall, Regina College, various empty downtown buildings, Hotel Saskatchewan, Laubach’s Art Studio and later Clay’s Art Studio












Additionally, commercially sponsored art shows by such entities as the Elson Co. , Richardson Brothers Co. of Winnipeg, the Cooling Galleries and even major newspapers and IBM were hosted in these cities and private collectors sometimes came to town to sell works of art to the public.



1936 Connoiseur shows art collection ad


The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is and was an institution funded by Canadian taxpayers so in a way it also was a Saskatchewan institution.  Its policy of sending art exhibitions out across the country certainly contributed to art awareness in Saskatchewan, where access to significant art collections was very limited in the first half of the twentieth century. The Gallery may be faulted for having a very narrow conception of what constituted Canadian art during this period, limiting the bulk of their Canadian purchasing to favour one region of the country, but not for their education program which allowed Canadians from coast to coast to see not only Canadian work but also international art. Praise for the educational functions of Canada’s National Gallery can be found in an editorial in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix Aug. 6, 1937

I was happy to find a series of articles on contemporary art patrons of Saskatchewan on the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance website.

©Lisa G. Henderson



Art Collectors in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

This post will deal with three private art collectors in Saskatchewan whose collections became the basis of three separate public art gallery collections in the province.  I will look at other collectors or collecting bodies in a post entitled Saskatchewan Art Patrons prior to 1950.

Two of the collectors here are very well known because their names grace the collections they donated to the public  — Norman Mackenzie (1869 -1936) and Frederick S. Mendel (1888 -1976)  The other collector was someone I came across only in the pages of the newspapers — William S. Grayson (1856-1926).  Based on what I found there, it seems that Grayson’s art collection was donated to the city of Moose Jaw in the late 1930s to form the basis of a public art collection.  I have been unable to confirm whether this plan came to fruition through online research but perhaps someone from Moose Jaw knows about the history of the disposition of Grayson’s collection and can confirm that it did, indeed, form the basis of the Moose Jaw Art Museum’s collection.  The Moose Jaw Art Gallery’s website does not contain a history of the museum or their collection but I have seen mention of this institution dating back to 1967, so it would be interesting to know how the gallery evolved.

Norman Mackenzie’s art collection, built before the mid 1930s,  was focused on European old master paintings and world antiques.  He also collected contemporary Canadian art, particularly Saskatchewan art.  Frederick S. Mendel’s collection was of a later date and focused on modern European art and North American art. William S. Grayson’s collection was the oldest and focused on late 19th century and early twentieth century northern European and North American painting, what would have been considered modern art in his own day.

1926 Death of William Grayson p4

Who was William S. Grayson? These newspaper articles published in Regina’s Morning Leader  should provide the answer to that question. Jun 9, 1926, Jun 10, 1926, Jun 14, 1926.  The last article dwells on his many accomplishments and includes a statement about his collection of paintings.  More information about his collection can be found in a couple of  articles published after his death. Mrs. Grayson held a Liberal party tea at her home in 1934 and the reporter dwelt to some extent upon the content of the Grayson gallery of paintings on display.  May 21, 1934 Leader-Post.  In 1937 an announcement was made that the Grayson painting collection, comprising some 130 pieces, was being donated to the city of Moose Jaw with the proviso that a suitable exhibition space be provided. This article also provided some information on the nature of the collection. Apr. 22, 1937 Star-Phoenix.  Apr. 27, 1937 Leader Post mentions that the matter was being discussed by the city of Moose Jaw. and a later one suggests that plans for the art gallery went ahead. May 11, 1937, Leader Post, because a board of management for the collection was formed.

What happened after that regarding the progress of the Moose Jaw Art Gallery is a mystery, as I have no access to published histories of Moose Jaw or editions of the Moose Jaw newspaper.  I hope that someone reading this might be spurred on to investigate further. In the 1930s Grayson’s collection might have looked a little out of fashion, with its Anton Mauves and 19th Century paintings, but any collection of carefully selected paintings would be a boon to starting an art gallery in Saskatchewan at that time. William S. Grayson doesn’t deserve the obscurity into which he has fallen.

Norman Mackenzie, whose collection forms the basis of today’s eponymously named gallery in Regina, is much better known. The gallery has published a number of catalogues over the years which detail aspects of his collecting and his biography.  Like Grayson, Mackenzie was a pioneer lawyer in Saskatchewan who amassed enough money to collect art as a hobby. Mackenzie bequeathed his extensive collection to his home city in the hope that a gallery would be erected to house it, possibly inspiring the Grayson family to do the same with their inherited art collection soon after.

I have found a number of articles related to Norman Mackenzie, which focus on his biography and give an excellent idea of his personality and his place in early Regina society.  His obituary is a good place to start. Jan. 3, 1936 Leader Post. For early assessments of his importance as an art collector, there are a couple of editorials in the Regina newspaper:  Sep. 26, 1953 & Nov. 25, 1957 Leader Post.

Norman McKenzie from JOhn Hawke's biographies ourrootsBecause Mackenzie lived in Regina for a long time and because he also had a profile as being the first Western Canadian to be appointed to the board of trustees of Canada’s National Gallery (1925-1935), he was a bit of a “player” in contemporary art politics in the province. Correspondence exists between he and Walter Murray, first president of the University of Saskatchewan, showing this.  In 1925 the two arranged for a first group showing of Saskatchewan art outside the province in Toronto at Hart House. It was an exhibit provided by Saskatchewan art collectors, including Mackenzie and the University. In 1928 Mackenzie formed the Saskatchewan Art Association, attempting to oversee all representative art activities in the province with a cabal of Regina Photo: 1913 Saskatchewan history book by F.N. Black        businessmen who were also art                                                                                                                    collectors.  For more information on this organization see my post Assorted Regina Art Clubs 1920s-1950.

He did, however, manage to keep a low profile in the press. Feb. 4, 1915, May 8 & 10, 1934 Leader Post are about all I could find on his art activities.  He did speak at the opening of an exhibition by Regina artist Harriette Keating (see her bio) but he seems to have been reticent to get involved as a speaker in the doings of various local art clubs.  There a a couple of mentions of him showing his art collection to the public Jan. 22, 1923 & Apr. 11 & Apr. 17, 1925. On both occasions, the proceeds from the event were destined for charities. However, Mackenzie did involve himself in obtaining travelling exhibitions from the National Gallery for the city of Regina’s annual summer fairs for many years. Some evidence of this will be found on my future post on Regina summer fairs.

While he was alive Mackenzie had bought land, planning to build a bigger structure than his own home to house his collection.  Straitened economic times in Regina prevented this from happening before his death.  His 1936 will, which bequeathed both his art collection and money to the University of Saskatchewan, had strings attached which were to benefit his home city of Regina, resulting in the formation in 1936 of the University of Saskatchewan owned Regina School of Fine Arts at Regina College. Owing to the depression and the onset of World War II and its aftermath, the Norman Mackenzie Gallery did not actually open as a separate entity until 1953 when a purpose built gallery was constructed.

Original Mackenzie Gallery Regina 1953 Sask History online

Original 1953 Mackenzie Gallery – photo found at Saskatchewan History online website. This structure was shortly added to in 1957 with a Massey design prize-winning addition. More information about this initial gallery can be found at Aug. 22, 1952 RLP

Author’s note: I cannot find anything online visually which physically situates this older building, as the present-day Mackenzie Gallery is no longer situated there and not part of the University any longer.  I remember seeing the 1957 era gallery as a young girl when I went to singing lessons at Darke Hall (Regina College) so I believe it must have been attached to either that building or one adjacent to it.  I left Regina when I was 12 and never lived there again for any length of time so my memory is vague.


Norman Mackenzie and J. Purves Carter

One aspect of Mackenzie’s career as a collector has been dealt with in a number of publications but I think my newspaper research may add a bit to what is known.

I have seen mention of J.Purves Carter in almost everything that has been written on the subject of Norman Mackenzie, Regina’s premiere historical art collector. For an online example see:

In most of the literature Carter is portrayed as a slightly shady character who may have duped Mackenzie, a collector in the “wilderness.” However, I think that more credit should be given to both Mackenzie and Carter based on what I have uncovered in newspaper articles in Regina and writings by Carter all available now on the Internet Archive website.

The National Portrait Gallery in London’s has a section in their website on Research which includes biographies of British Picture Restorers

There is a very interesting entry for J. Purves Carter, who was born Joseph Henry Carter in 1862 in London and died in Florence, Italy in 1937.  The gist of the rather long entry is that Carter misrepresented his age and changed his name when he first went to North America around 1900. Researchers have found that he also misrepresented his background and “stretched” the list of clients in his resume.

James Purves Carter (as he was known in Canada) was a painter, art restorer and picture dealer.  According to evidence and to his own promotional material, he was a cataloguer and a man who was out to make picture dealing an honest business by uncovering the many frauds that were committed in the multitude of art transactions going on in the late 19th and early 20th century.  If you look at a history of Laval University’s art collection website,

you will find that there are no aspersions cast upon his name there.  He worked on the collection for several years and published its first catalogue.

He was hired to do work on various public and private collections based on his references, some of which were concocted or embellished to make him a more attractive hire.  While he may have made misattributions in his practice, like anyone involved in this kind of work, there is no indication that he did this out of any intention to defraud anyone.  Take a look at these writings by Carter and the list of references in the back of his booklet on the Torrigiani Academy, which includes Norman Mackenzie’s name.  If Mackenzie was duped, he was in good company because Carter worked for many other important private collectors in North America and Europe in the early years of the twentieth century, not all of whose patronage could have been invented.

The Great Picture Frauds 1908 at

Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of the Paintings in the Gallery of Laval University, Quebec, 1909 at

A lecture upon the art and art treasures at Laval University delivered before l’Association des anciens élèves et gradué s de l’Université Laval, à Québec”, the Honorable representative of His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick and the Elite of Québec, at Laval University, June 14th, 1909 (1909) at

The Torrigiani Academy founded by J. Purves Carter, n.d. (possibly written in 1920s) at

It is evident that Norman Mackenzie came into contact with J. Purves Carter through Regina’s Monsignor Olivier Mathieu, the man who had hired Carter to work on Laval University’s collection in Quebec City when he was rector there.  Mathieu came to Regina in 1911 to take charge of the new Holy Rosary Cathedral and quickly rose to the position of archbishop of the diocese. Mathieu was an ardent art collector, like Mackenzie, and I have no doubt that Mackenzie heard of Carter’s talents from Mathieu. He was probably introduced to him in 1915 when Carter visited Regina.  Mackenzie later made contact with him while they were both in Italy.  See: Aug. 29, 1912, Jun 7, 1915,  Nov. 22, 1917. Morning Leader


Apart from advising and obtaining art for Mathieu and Mackenzie, Carter appears to have been involved in arrangements for Saskatchewan’s Lt. Gov. George W. Brown to obtain a portrait of himself painted by Hubert von Herkomer, a highly esteemed British portrait artist. Brown donated his portrait to the Legislative Assembly collection in 1915. (Jun 25, 1915 Morning Leader) Brown also procured a painting by the Italian artist Albani from Carter about this time, which he donated to Regina College in 1919.( Feb. 4, 1919 Morning Leader) Brown had formerly been Mackenzie’s law partner and probably trusted Mackenzie’s judgment, However this 1943 general report I found in the Leader-Post on the Saskatchewan legislature building suggests that von Herkomer’s portrait of Brown may not have been totally completed by the old portraitist. (Apr. 3, 1943). An image of it can viewed at this website which shows the portraits of the lieutenant governors of Saskatchewan. Its URL  is

I think these few connections will add further context to any discussions about the relationship between Norman Mackenzie and J. Purves Carter that appear in future.  Mackenzie was an astute man and even though he was situated in Regina, a small centre with no major art dealers, he was no more of a country bumpkin or naif than many other North American collectors of Renaissance and Baroque European art who lived in his era.  He was an informed collector and certainly exhibited his talents as a connoisseur when it came to collecting Saskatchewan art.


The third collector to be dealt with here is from a younger generation than the Saskatchewan pioneers Grayson and Mackenzie.  Frederick S. Mendel was also from a different cultural background and began his collecting before immigrating to Saskatchewan from Europe at the onset of World War II.  Although much of his history in Saskatchewan goes beyond 1950, his residence in Saskatoon and his art collection had an immediate impact.  He was profiled by the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix soon after he arrived and set up his substantial Saskatoon business, Intercontinental Packers. Jan. 29, 1941 SSP. There is also an online version of Mendel’s memoir The Book and Life of a Little Man published in the early 1970s which covers the events of his unusual life.

As an active Canadian art collector Fred Mendel and his artist daughter Eva Mendel Miller became quickly engaged with the Saskatoon Art Association and the Saskatoon Art Centre in the 1940s and he began to support local artists, like William Perehudoff, through commissions. Jan. 2, 1947, SSP depiction of artists at Mendel’s 1946 New Year’s party at the packing plant.

















1949 Mendel Collection ad



In autumn 1949, the first art gallery hanging of the Mendel collection was done by the Saskatoon Art Centre. Oct. 26, 1949, Oct. 29 (scroll down) & Oct. 29, 1949 & Nov. 5, 1949 SSP.  In 1955 a national tour of 65 paintings from Mendel’s collection started in Regina at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery.  Mar.8, Mar. 11 & Mar. 14 Leader-Post. The full collection of 250 works had been catalogued by University of Saskatchewan art historian Gordon W. Snelgrove and a partial catalogue accompanied the exhibition on its tour.







On my Early Saskatchewan art history? page (see banner), you will find more information about the post 1950 openings of the Mackenzie and Mendel galleries and more perspective on these benefactors.  These galleries now have long histories which they have documented themselves in a number of fascinating publications.

Many Saskatchewan art collectors and artists have generously added to these collections over time. In my next post I will address many lesser known art patrons in Saskatoon and Regina in the earlier years of the province and some art collections created in the public name through their actions.

©Lisa G. Henderson